Guten Abend from Amsterdam!

Amsterdam is as wonderful as my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Hein, told her class long ago. Here are some photos from the city and a few from the route here from Paris. 

The last 3-1/2 weeks have been a great adventure, but it’s time to go home. 

one of 3,000 houseboats in Amsterdam.
  
Cyclist in Amsterdam.
  
Amsterdam.
  
I think that this is the town hall in Delft.
  
The ferry to cross the canal near Kinderdijk cost just 0.80 Euros.
  
A TGV train like the one I rode from Paris to Lille, France. These typically travel at 200 mph.
  
Typical continental breakfast
 

Bonjour from Lille Flandres

PBP was tough. While I dropped out after about 1,164 of 1,230 km, I feel good about the adventure. If I return in 2019 to finish the job I will ride the lightest road bike I can afford, will tour by bike only after PBP to save my legs,  and will further pare down the weight of clothing and gear.

After an extra day to recover in Paris, I took the TGV train north 125 miles to Lille in the Flandres region of France. These trains are the fastest in the world, and average 200 mph. They hold the train speed record of 357 mph.

Today, I will travel east 75 miles to Brussels. Then I will wander through Holland and enjoy Rotterdam, Gouda, Delft, Den Haag, Haarlem, and the city I have wanted to visit since my 3rd grade teacher shared pictures, Amsterdam.

Below are some photos from PBP and time in France.

Adieu.

Randy 

  With my son, Nick, and his wife, Marah, at lunch before PBP.  
SWith riding buddies Mike and Dave.

    

riders sleep anywhere.
T

    

I spent about 200 euros on food during PBP. Fuel and water were key.
  
Control stop
  
The new bike performed well, but was a bit heavy for the purpose.
  
Bridge in Brest on the Atlantic coast. Halfway point on PBP.
  
  
These cows were curious.
  
Dessert at one of the finest restaurants in Paris.
  
Notre-Dame in Paris.
  
Old bike in the dumpster.
  
Fine breakfast at Legend Hotel in Paris.
  
TGV train at Paris du Nord station.
  I road the TGV with Ivo, a six time PBP vet from  Holland.
View in Lille.
 

On through France

[Note: This post was drafted about a week ago. I have had to replace my bike since then, because the left seat stay (part of the frame) broke. I was desperate when I discovered the break just one day before one of the greatest Bike rides in the world. But, I stayed calm and was able to purchase a new adventure touring bike and move some of the fine components from the old bike to the new with the help of a great mechanic. All is well today and Paris-Brest-Paris is done.]

Bonjour!

It has been eight days since I left Zurich, and the days have been filled with adventure. I have mountain biked, crashed twice (no injuries or major mechanical problems), been locked in a restroom, and had difficulty finding food and water. Since I haven’t posted for several days, below is a photo digest of the past five days or so. Each photo is captioned and tells part of the story.

Today will be a quiet day. It is overcast with light rain. This morning I will prepare my bike for the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) ride. It needs cleaning, adjusting, and lubing. At 2 pm I will meet at the French National Velodrome with the 18 Minnesota Randonneurs, some whom have become good friends. At 2:30 pm I will meet with the 500 or so riders of Randonneurs USA. Then, I will have my bike inspected at 5 pm. My son, Nick, and his wife, Marah, will be there. They flew into Paris last night. Nick will ride PBP while Marah tours Paris.

Tonight, I will try to stay up late, since my PBP ride starts at 6 pm on Sunday, August 16. My initial ride strategy to omplete the 1,230 km (760 mile) ride in the alotted 90 hours is this:

1. Ride between 240 and 260 in 20 +/- 2 hours

2. Shower and sleep for up to 6 hours

3. Repeat #1

4. Repeat #2

5. Repeat #1

My goal is to arrive at the hotel after 72 to 78 hours, meaning I would arrive between 6 pm and midnight on August 19. But, I would be happy with a finish time of 89 hours and 55 minutes, coming in just before noon on August 20.

The adventure continues!

   
    
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    
    
 

I have arrived in Versailles

Bonjour from Versaille, the former home of French kings.

[Note: I have some time to rest now, so will add new posts to fill in the last five days or so, but not necessarily in chronological order. Manyof the details will be in the photo captions.]
Yesterday, I completed the first phase of the Bicycle Tour of Europe 2015. After 7 days of pedaling, 671 miles, and over 51,000 feet of climbing, it is time to rest and recuperate for 48 hours before the start of the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) ride at 6 pm on August 16.

Before I left Fontainebleau, I wandered the grounds of the chateau there. One of the largest palaces in France, it was a residence of French monarchs from Louis VII through Napoleon III. Napoleon I abdicated his crown there before he was exiled to the island of Elba.

In Fontainbleau, I stayed at the Aigle Noir (Black Eagle) hotel. The full breakfast, my first after enjoying continental breakfasts each day since arriving in Switzerland, was superbe with many standard dishes and delicacies.

Adieu!

Randy

 Chateau de Fontainbleau.  
  The chateau.The backyard of the chateau.  
  The chateau.Preparing for a wedding at the chateau.  
Randy at Hotel de Aigle Noir.

  The hotel.  
A carousel on the street in front of the hotel.

 A streat view in Fontainbleau.  
  Hotel de Aigle Noir.The sumptuous breakfast at the hotel.  
The view from the breakfast table.

 

Through the Swiss and French Alps

Bonjour from Saint Ferreol, France!

It has been three long and rugged, but rewarding, days since I left the beautiful city of Zurich, Switzerland. Each day has been filled with adventure, beautiful scenery, friendly people, long climbs and a good share of gravel roads and even mountain bike paths.

Switzerland has made safe cycling a priority. There are bike paths and lanes (many serve as walking lanes and country roads as well) seemingly everywhere. The road conditions were consistently superb.

The first day out of Zurich concluded with a 1.3 mile, 90 minute hike up a hiking trail to Wengen, the town where I stayed that night. It was tough. The only way to reach the town is on foot or by train.

Unfortunately, I have arrived at the hotel after dark each night. So, some spectacular scenery has been missed, I suspect. Yesterday, while climbing a rugged area in western Switzerland I was delighted to see my first wildlife of the trip, including a brown mountain goat, a fox, a snake, and several lizards. Until then, I had not seen a single land animal, except insects. Surprisingly, the number of birds seems much fewer than in Minnesota.

There are many stories to tell, but I will leave it to the photos and brief captions below.

Adventure awaits.

Adieu from Franc.

Randy Runtsch

PS – Facebook has proven to be simpler to update more frequently (at least daily) than this blog site. So, feel free to friend me there if you wish. Most, if not all, hotels will have We-Fii so that I can upload.

 On leaving Zurich, I found that  the rear deraileur cable had failed. I need all 10 of those gears in the mountains, so wanted to find a bike shop to avoid failure in the mountains.  
Luckily, Pete Stutz, the owner of Shark Bikes, just a few blocks from the hotel, had opened early. He fixed the frayed cables in no time.

  This is one of the country homes near  Zurich. Nearly all of the homes in the countryside  and small towns, whether new or old, are chalets.  
 I pedaled quickly through Luzernn (Lucerne), a beatiful old city with a special bridge.

This must have been the first of many gravel roads that I traveled on. Most were in good condition and didn”t require walking, while a few were very difficcult.  
These sheep in Wengen wore bells like many of the cattle in Switzerland.

  This is the view of the Junfrau, near the Hotel Edelweiss where I stayed in Wengen.  
The doorway of a chalet in Wengen.

    
    
    
    
    
    
    
  Cautoz  (Kah-too)  helped me navigaate a difficult stretch of road from the Swiss border to Chamonix and Mont Blanc.  
A beatiful view in the mountains.

    
The road that Cautouz confirmed existed. HHe thought I might have had to backtrack.

  HHere are 5 of 6 young men  from Isreal who are hiking a famous route through the Alps in Switzerland, Italy, and France.  
An obscured view of Mont Blanc, tha tallest mountain in Europe.

    
This was the roughest trail by far. It was true mountain biking on a touring biike.

 

Auf Wiedersehen, Zurich

While I enjoyed my two-night stay in Zurich, it is time to start the adventure by cycling into the Jungfrau region of the Swiss Alps. Today, the journey will take me through Lucerne and Interlaken on to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, a village surrounded by tall cliffs and mountains. The ride will challenge me with its 9,000 feet of climbing.

So far, it seems that Zurich has been a good place to launch this European bicycle tour. The staff at Hotel Sternen Oerlikon have been exceptionally kind and helpful. The room has been comfortable and the breakfasts exceptional. The city is lively in the evening, with thousands of Zurichers and tourists enjoying the restaurants, lake shore, and Old Town. But, it’s a big city, and I can’t wait to leave for the country; especially the Alps, on this self-propelled journey.

Please see the photos below. Auf Wiedersehen, Zurich!

 This large medieval church is Grossmunster. It resides across the river from Fraumunster. 

 Zurich has its own little bridge with thousands of padlocks attached.  
The church on the left is Fraumunster, which is from Medieval towns. In the 1970s, famed artist Marc Chagal created its beatiful stained glass windows. Unfortunately, photography inside of the church is prohibited, so I can’t share.

  This is a view of Lake Zurich from the city, which is on its north end and wraps around the northwest and northeast sides for a few miles of this long lack. The Alps cannot be seen in this view, but they rise above the south end of the lake.  
The gravel roads, just a few miles west of the city, allowed opportunities for peace and quiet and to enjoy the local farmland and forest.

 

As I pedaled through the countryside, I saw many oder couples and young women hiking on the trails and gravel roads. Most of the young men seemed to favor riding a mountain bike here. The map on the sign shows the extensive local trail system.  
This Swiss are reknown for precision, so it’s likely that this train arrived at Zurich Central Station on time.

  My dad owned an old Fiat like this one, probably in the mid- or late 1960s. It had little power, but a lot of young boys could squeeze in. I seem to remember sitting in the window area behind the back seat (I was little for a few years)!  
This is the nice Hotel Sternen Oerlikon, which served as my base while enjoying the sites, sounds, people, and foods of north central Switzerland.

  While riding through the forest west fo Zurich, I spotted six or seven rocks like this one. The sign seems to describe the positions of various planets and the benches are situated for night viewing of the sky.  
The hotel “Top of Zurich” on Uetilberg Mountain featured several of these strange deer lamps to help visitors find their way at night.

  This church is of much different design than the Medieval churches in the city center. It is located on the west side of the city.  
This is a view of the narrow Lake Zurich from Uetilberg Mountain.

  This is a view of a valley to the south of Uetilberg Mountain.  
  I was delighted to ride through the boreal forest on a quiet gravel road just outside of Zurich. It seems that the Swiss employ sustainable logging practices in these woods. 
This was a safe place to park the bike, with two locks, just outside of the hotel’s back door.

The checklist has been checked

The Europe bicycle tour adventure begins today when Kazumi will drive me to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. From there, I will fly to Rekjavik, Iceland, and on to Zurich, Switzerland. After a day of site  seeing, and possibly a swim in Lake Zurich, the first leg of the tour will begin, with several days in the Swiss and French Alps.

See the map below for details about the tour and the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) grand randonee.

Planning has been long and challenging. But, the bike, gear, and rider are as ready for the adventure as they will ever be.

I hope to post to this blog, www.randall-runtsch.com, about every day or two. So, please check back!

Gary, Randy, and Bob pose before the Golden Pancake Overnight 200k brevet that started in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, in late July 2015.
Gary, Randy, and Bob pose before the Golden Pancake Overnight 200k brevet that started in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, in late July 2015.

 

Randy's reflective gear is lit up during the Golden Pancake Overnight 200k brevet.
Randy’s reflective gear is lit up during the Golden Pancake Overnight 200k brevet. Night riding will be a huge part of PBP, so I am well-equipped to ride in the dark and to be seen by motorists.

 

I was able to fit all of the gear in one pannier, but it was tight, and the ride would have been imbalanced. So, the gear has been packed into two panniers and one handlebar bag. For PBP, I will carry about half of the gear in a stuff sack and the handlebar bag.
I was able to fit all of the gear in one pannier, but it was tight, and the ride would have been imbalanced. So, the gear has been packed into two panniers and one handlebar bag. For PBP, I will carry about half of the gear in a stuff sack and the handlebar bag. I decided to bring a DSLR camera and several light lenses for what may be a trip of a lifetime.

 

Randy met his brother, Steve, in Cottage Grove, and together they pedaled to Nook in St. Paul for a burger. It was a good 195-mile ride for lunch.
I met my brother, Steve, in Cottage Grove, and together we pedaled to Nook Restaurant in St. Paul for a burger. It was a great 195-mile ride for lunch punctuated by a heavy but short rainfall.

 

I will start in Zurich, Switzerland, pedal southwest through the Swiss and French Alps, and then on to Paris. At Paris, I will ride with family, friends, and 5,000 other cyclists in the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP), which features 1,230 km (760 miles) and a 90-hour time limit. After a couple of days of rest and sightseeing in Paris, I will pedal on to northern France, Belgium, and The Netherlands where my final destination will be Amsterdam. In all, I will pedal about 2,000 miles in about 3 weeks.
I will start in Zurich, Switzerland, pedal southwest through the Swiss and French Alps, and then on to Paris. At Paris, I will ride with family, friends, and 5,000 other cyclists in the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) grand randonnee, which features 1,230 km (760 miles) and a 90-hour time limit. After a couple of days of rest and sightseeing in Paris, I will pedal on to northern France, Belgium, and The Netherlands where my final destination will be Amsterdam. In all, I will pedal about 2,000 miles in about 3 weeks.

Nine Days Until the European Bicycle Tour

Just nine days remain until I fly from Minneapolis to Zurich, Switzerland, to launch a 1,950 mile bicycle tour, and a ride of the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) Grand Randonee. I am mostly prepared and excited about the adventure, but a bit nervous, too, as after four months of planning, there is more to prepare.

For this trip, which will combine bicycle touring and randonneuring, I have decided to retrofit my 1982 Trek 720 touring bike. The drivetrain is all-new, with Shimano XT derailleurs, cassette, and crankset, and Dura Ace 10-speed bar end shifters. Unfortunately, with its Dynasys system, the road shifters are not compatible with the XT mountain bike rear derailleur. So, an older model of Deore derailleur that is compatible has been ordered. This is critical, since the current setup shifts through only 8 of the available 10 rear cogs. The last two big cogs will be needed to climb the Swiss and French Alps. Happiness should return when the new derailleur will be installed by this weekend.

Also, I seem to be dependent (for good or bad) on iPhone apps such as Ride With GPS and Strava to navigate and track rides. While I will have the opportunity to recharge the phone and a battery pack each night while touring, I don’t expect there to be charging opportunities to recharge during the 90-hour, 1,230 km, PBP. So, I have ordered a USB charging device, called the Sinewave Revolution, that will connect to my SON 28 dynamo hub to provide USB charging capabilities whenever the headlight and taillight are not needed. It will be great to be “off the grid” and maintain iPhone power and have a reliable and bright lighting system with no batteries needed.

Check back in a couple of days when I will publish a route map and itinerary for the European tour and PBP. I have found that preparing is a big part of the adventure, especially if it is to be successful and misadventures minimized in number and impact.

No hatsuyume today

Well, I didn’t dream about Mount Fuji, a hawk, and an egg plant last night. A dream about these items, called hatsuyume in Japan, is believed by some to be a sign of good luck in the coming year.

But, I do remember a dream. It was about a former coworker hosting a big party, at his home, for coworkers and friends. What I remember is being the first to arrive at the party with my brother and son. A stream needed to be crossed to reach the house. My son crossed with no problems, but my brother fell in, face first, after stepping on the first rock. I dragged him out, and we proceeded to the house, where the host started a puppet show from a large upstairs window. And, then the alarm rang.

So, again, no hatsayume on the first full night of 2014. Even so, it may be a very good year.

Happy new year – and a pleasant hatsuyume, too

Last night, my wife and I stayed awake well past midnight to mark the arrival of 2014, but  slept well into the morning; a rarity in our household. When my wife tiptoed from the bedroom to the kitchen, where I stood, she asked, “Randy, did you have any dreams last night?” I replied, “No, none that I remember. From what I understand, people only remember dreams that they wake up during.” She explained that, according to Japanese tradition, you will enjoy especially good luck if you have dreamt, on New Year’s night, of Mount Fuji, a hawk, and an egg plant.

Good luck is always welcome, but why would dreaming about an egg plant be classified as brining good luck, alongside a world-famous mountain, or even a bird of prey? I researched this superstition, called hatsuyume, in Wikipedia. It is actually related to dreams on the first full night of the new year,  the night of January 1-2, since in Japan, New Year’s night often passes without sleep.

So, I still have a chance to see Mount Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant, as I slumber tonight. Whether or not I do, I wish good fortune for you and me in 2014.

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