Beautiful 120km Spring ride to Berlin. Goodnight.
I arrived in Rostock and made my way to Rike’s apartment. I knew of Rike through Boris, a co-worker at SpaceX and a good friend. Boris is also on an adventure, so I’ll put a plug to his blog: The Redhead’s Reflections. I remember an evening at his apartment around September of last year. After a few beers, we started talking about what the future held. Paraphrasing a bit from my ever-changing memory: I said I wanted some adventure, Boris said he wanted to go back to school. Fast forward to now; I’m biking through Germany and Boris is taking a long route to Boston where he will study Aerospace Engineering at MIT.
Rike and her boyfriend Robert showed me a good time in Rostock – I went to my first European club. Pretty fun, but very easy to feel out of place in my hiking shoes and nylon pants-that-zip-to-become-shorts. All of that dissolves in four delicious inexpensive 50cl beers. I’ve learned that I don’t really like staying stationary while on tour (surprise!) so I woke up, made some breakfast, and got on the road. The bike lanes are well marked and very good in Germany, I’d say they are in general better than Denmark! Easy to make a lot of progress in a day.
With my gear soaked riding through the rain, I persevere and will be in Berlin in the next few days. I plan to stay with Katharina, a friend I met in Los Angeles only a few months ago.
The flat land I was accustomed to in Northern Zealand began to wrinkle near the Southern end of the island. The gently rolling hills were a much needed break from uninspiring landscape. The wind also reduced a bit…but as always in your face. I’ve convinced myself it’s a law of physics that wind is always in your face while cycling Denmark, but I’m always too tired to sit down and work out the proof.
The Danes know this and have large windmills sparsely placed across the landscape…again, pointed against you. They use the electricity to power my favorite Danish appliance – the horizontal toaster. Much superior to the American vertical toaster, as you can make a good sandwich ON the toaster. What’s this about the toaster oven? Much like that deadbeat uncle, it seems to work fine on the outside but has too bad of an influence for anyone around him. Who designs a heat-producing machine where you turn the dial clockwise for heat (OK), counterclockwise for off (OK), and more counterclockwise for stay on forever? The Danish horizontal toaster could have saved my college apartment from a close call with a sandwich bag and a toaster oven. Or my other college apartment. Or the kitchen at SpaceX…
I decided to get out of Denmark and make for the cheap-food promise-land of Germany. It’s a bit of island hopping down to the South of Denmark. Unbeknownst to me, the smaller ferries don’t start running until mid-May, so I ended up taking a half-day detour through countless empty tourist towns. The ride through Falster was very nice with gently rolling hills and well-signed bike lanes taking you through towns every few kilometers. I got to the port city of Gedser where the ferry awaits to take me to Rostock. I figured it would be a little hassle to figure out where the ferry was and to get a ticket, but when I was riding up on the road I was greeted with the full belly of a behemoth on the road right in front of me. The highway ends at a gate where I roll up and ask for a ticket. At 50DKK – about $9 or a good cappuccino in Copenhagen – the price is a steal. I ask when the ferry is departing – “now” is the answer. I ride up into the belly and go upstairs to relax on the two hour open-border journey to Germany.
Germany felt like a breath of fresh air. The trees were just starting to turn green and I could smell flowers as I was biking from the ferry terminal.
With the wind at my back, I decided to ride on to downtown Copenhagen early. The bike lanes went from patchy and intermittent to full-fledged direct traffic lanes to downtown. I met Alberto, a PhD student studying Chemical Engineering, at a bus stop outside the city while unglamorously eating a honey-avacado sandwich. I ended up staying at his apartment and met his girlfriend, Katrine, who introduced me to a traditional Danish summer dessert. I’m not sure the name, but it’s very simple: buttermilk and something similar to nilla wafers. Delicious on a spring evening!
I met up with Kristian and Peter out at the Copenhagen Suborbitals Hangar. At the weekly Sapphire launch vehicle meeting, I got to meet a good amount of the team. Lots of brain power and motivation all around!
Kristian was generous and hosted me at his house Monday night. After a good night’s sleep I’m ready to hit the rainy road.
On to Germany!
The past few days have been very nice weather, contrasting to the wind and rain I rode through just out of Gothenberg. Such nice weather I got a good sunburn on my face, the sun is very intense here if it peeks out of the clouds.
I met up with Shaun and his wife Patrice in Hittarp through warmshowers.org. I was their first guest and he and his family showed me amazing hospitality! I stuffed myself full of spaghetti and a homemade meat sauce for dinner and talked about bike tours, riding in Denmark and rockets. I got a great tour of Hittarp by his son, Emil and his girlfriend, Mimi. My panniers are now overflowing with leftovers and more sandwich foods. What more could I ask for? Shaun recommended I take the ferry from Helsingborg over to the Denmark coast in order to get to Copenhagen, the next step in the journey. Magically, Mimi had a free ticket for the ferry and generously gave it to me! Thank you, Mimi!
I’m especially excited about Copenhagen because I’m getting a tour of Copenhagen Suborbitals – a not for profit suborbital space company – on Monday and Tuesday. They’ve been doing amazing stuff on a small budget for many years already, and now venturing into actively guided rockets with their Sapphire launch vehicle! Obviously this is super interesting to me so I’m making a normal 1.5 day ride to Copenhagen into a three day ride around the north coast of Zealand. It’s very, very windy going West but I’ll tough it out….it means going East back to Copenhagen is easy.
Sweden’s excellent cycling network continues on the Cykelspåret:
The route is well marked though circuitous. It takes you along railroad tracks, country farms and backcountry. The city planners left enough space for a cycling route whenever making roads…unbelievable!
My first day riding south of Gothenburg was excellent. I finally found the first sunlight since I arrived about 5pm. At a latitude of 57 degrees, the sun hangs in the sky (much in the way bricks don’t) for a long time. The sun finally sets around 8:30 in the evening.
I quickly tood advantage of the ancient Scandanivian allemansrätten (camp-where-ever-the-hell-you-want-if-you-respect-the-land). I found a nice hill right off of the cycle path (south of Åsa) around 6pm and was pleasantly surprised at an awesome campsite at the top.
The next day I cycled past a deserted beach, the sand is very fine. In a very small area, I went down a dirt road to see a stone-age burial mound group. There were many upright stones in a large field; amazing to think that the landscape looks so similar to what it did a thousand years ago.
I saw frozen lake after frozen lake out my window in the airplane when approaching Landvetter airport yesterday afternoon. I was thinking it may have been a good idea to delay the tour for another month. I quickly snapped to my senses and realized the weather is part of the adventure!
As soon as I got off the plane, I saw the familiar sight of my cardboard box wrapped in strapping tape. Everything was intact; the same couldn’t be said for two other bikes in the oversize luggage area (shifter has poked through the box and about 1 foot of cable was exposed!). Didn’t get to meet the owners of those bikes, unfortunately.
I made quick work of piecing the bike together in the baggage area. The whole thing was back together in about an hour and a half and ready to ride. I repacked my panniers, noting that I felt like I’m traveling heavy, and made my way through customs. I picked up a SIM card, filled my water bottles, and made my way out of the airport. My destination was Erica’s apartment in the North Western Gothenburg area, about 30km away (if I made all the right turns!).
I made my way through rural Sweden, the geography reminds me a lot of South Western Wisconsin. It started to lightly rain about an hour in. While this may have normally reduced morale, I was pumping full of adrenaline and excitement so I barely noticed.
I made my way through downtown Sweden with the help of some nice people when I asked for directions. I didn’t have a map yet, and I didn’t have my GPS out – it’s easy to get going on the wrong bike path because there’s so many of them! The paths were crowded, even in cold and rainy weather. That’s a cultural difference and something I’ve never seen in the US. Eventually I found my way to Erica’s apartment, about two hours behind schedule. After a nice shower, her and Mar started cooking classic Swedish meatballs. I was so hungry it took a lot of willpower to eat the delicious meatballs at a reasonable rate. I’m going to stay here one more night in order to get acquainted and acquire all of the gear I need for camping. I couldn’t bring any bike lubricant, degreaser, vulcanizer or camp fuel on the plane, so I have to buy them locally.
Edwin and I went on potentially my last dive in Los Angeles yesterday. We decided to scrap the usual Veteran’s Park dive and go directly West from our house. There’s got to be a lot to explore out there! As a colleague once said to me, “luck favors the well prepared,” we made sure to make a dive plan.
Veteran’s Park is a good dive in the LA region because there is a large channel cut out for shipping. This allows you to dive deep quickly while still doing a shore dive. There’s no such channel cut out for Hermosa Beach, so we checked NOAA Bathymetry data to see what the contour was going to be like:
The seabed has a fairly low grade, so we expected to be air limited on this dive. Anticipated max depth was between 30 and 40 FSW. Unfortunately, the bathymetry data is low resolution right next to the coast making the planning a little difficult, but gave enough information for a reasonable pre-dive plan. We also checked the surf conditions pre-dive to make sure we wouldn’t get knocked around too much. We should have checked the surf conditions before we left on surfline; if I had made this a habit I probably wouldn’t have dislocated my shoulder back in October 2012!
To add to the fun, Edwin was diving a HP 120 tank and I was diving a HP 80 tank. We wanted maximum bottom time, so the plan was to share air (myself breathing from his secondary second-stage) once we descended, then move back to my tank once we both had an equal volume of air left. The math is pretty simple because we have similar air consumption rates. Assuming a 3300 PSI tank at the start of sharing air, we want to end the air sharing once Edwin’s tank was at about 80 cubic feet remaining.
80/120*3300 = 2200 PSI for termination of sharing air
The other calculation we have to perform is the turnaround point. We need to turn around once either diver has 60 CF of air left (this is a little over half the total air available to each diver, 100 CF). We use the rated volume of the tanks for this calculation (3500 PSI). Again the math is simple:
60/80*3500 = 2625 ~= 2700 PSI for Solomon
60/120*3500 = 1750 ~= 1700 PSI for Edwin
The dive itself was fairly uneventful. After the long trudge across the beach in the dark, we donned our masks and fins and made it past the surf. We descended approximately 100 feet off shore into about 17 FSW. After getting our initial bearings, we motion to share air and I grip the secondary provided by Edwin. We stick close together and I make sure to hold on to the regulator at the connection with the hose to make sure it doesn’t pop out if any sudden movements were made.
As soon as I thought “man, there’s nothing out here,” we come across the largest octopus I’ve ever seen in the wild! My guess was about 15 inches long. We watched it for a while as it majestically avoided our lights. The landscape was so barren, it felt like I was on a different planet, speeding across the land. A small market squid which looked hopelessly lost was attracted to our lights on the way back. It came right up to my light which shined straight through the translucent body. After a few minutes it realized we were much larger and clumsier in the water and lost interest. Edwin and I finned back to the shore.
The ending air volumes were spot-on, indicating we did the planning well and our air consumption is pretty well matched. Stick to the plan, but also realize you have the ability to (quoting my cavern diving instructor) “change the dive plan in TWO seconds” should any situation arise.
609/3500*120 = 21 CF for Edwin
1050/3500*80 = 24 CF for Solomon
Time to break the news to a wider audience…I’m now going alone. I wasn’t exactly preparing for a solo trip, but I still feel I’m up for the challenge.
I had a pretty amazing going away party on Saturday. I made Falcon and Dragon piñatas as a surprise! A blindfold and a baseball bat are a sure-fire way to make a better party. Woke up at 2pm on Sunday afternoon face down on my bed without a pillow….good times. Thanks to everyone who made it out, it made leaving the area a little less lonely.
Now that the party is over, I need to get back to business. I started packing up my bike today for the great journey in the cargo hold of an airplane. I had been preparing by acquiring four different size cardboard bike boxes from local bike shops. They’ve got to get the bikes shipped in somehow….might as well pack them up the same way! It wasn’t hard to find a bunch of them, though I had to call ahead because the cardboard scavengers are ravenous around Los Angeles.
First things first – I took off the front wheel and used a plastic spacer I got from the local bike shop to keep the fork from getting bent. I then took off the handlebars (not the stem) carefully to avoid crimping the cables, followed by the pedals. Off go the front and rear racks and the saddle. The test fit in the biggest box seemed OK, though the next biggest box was clearly too narrow for everything.
The box was still a little narrow around the rear hub and the rear derailleur was in direct contact with the box. I decided to take a safe bet and remove the chain and rear derailleur (which also gave me the opportunity to clean them a bit better!). When searching the internet for how to box up a bike, I remember some person made a cardboard box around the rear derailleur and I thought it was a great idea – here’s to you.
The rest was fairly uneventful, though time consuming figuring out maximum packing efficiency. Lots of unpacking and repacking. I used bubble wrap to shield components from other components. I managed to fit all the bike and both racks in without too much issue. Not quite sure what I’ll use to fill the rest of volume, I may just use those large plastic air pockets as I don’t want this single box to be super heavy with a bunch of random small gear shoved in every nook and cranny.
Ta-da! Time for a beer.