Start with Sun, End with Goodnight Gorilla

I’m wet as a dog. Third day of riding. Third day of rain. The day started with so much optimism as my ride from Hüttblek to Hamburg was a gorgeous one. Frauke and Nills, my Warm Showers hosts, had planned a meticulous route for me and the sun was shining. The three hours to Hamburg were an absolute joy – a mix of small farm roads with beautiful views of rolling hills and forest roads and beautiful urban trails along canals and waterways as I approached the city. It was the best cycling of the trip so far. At one point I stopped at a meadow with about 20 horses grazing on the grass and just took a moment to give thanks for this opportunity and the happiness I was feeling.

As I entered Hamburg I was forced to make a “juice” stop. Not a drink for myself but some time for my phone to recharge with the portable charger I’d brought along. This is an unfortunate reality on a trip like this because I’m so dependent on my phone, for navigating me step-by-step on my route using the Komoot app. It gets worse in the city because often there are tons of twists and turns and I feel it necessary to keep the visual map open on my phone otherwise I end up going in too many wrong directions. There is a voice that tells me when to turn, and when I’m in the countryside I can follow the directions pretty well without needing to look at the map, but in the city I need the visual. This, of course, sucks the life of the battery and then requires a few more juice breaks. I do sometimes put the charger in my back pocket and charge the battery while I ride, but this is cumbersome and annoying, having the cord hanging down over my legs as I ride.

Riding into Hamburg, through public parks along Außenalster Lake was absolutely gorgeous. The weather was still nice and people were out, running, walking, lounging, enjoying European big city life. I was feeling great. I snapped some pics around the busy Jungfernsteig promenade, which is on the smaller of the two man made lakes of Hamburg and seems to function as the main tourist center of the city. In one spot 30 or so Euro 2024 flags were flying high in the air signaling that this important international football tournament was about to begin. The first match isn’t until Friday – in Munich – but Hamburg will host some matches beginning on the weekend.

It was at this point that my good friend, Mr. Rain, began. It started with a light drizzle, nothing too alarming. I took a break at a little food stand, under an umbrella to have some pomme frites with mayo and a cold draft beer. I enjoyed the moment to watch people stroll by along one of Hamburg’s many inner canals, enjoy my food, and get my gear and clothing ready for what I anticipated could be a wet afternoon. Shortly after my food stop, and before the heaven’s completely opened up, I rode my bike to the St. Pauli Elbe Tunnel, a tunnel that opened in 1911 which runs over 400 meters under the Elbe River. This was recommended by Frauke and Nils and it was worth the extra kilometers it added to my ride. Upon arriving I waited with a few other people to board the large elevator that descends deep under the city and that gains you access to the tunnel. It’s wild. Once out of the elevator, the tunnel is in front of you, and it’s this gateway for pedestrians and cyclists to get from one side of the river to the other, since at this spot there is no bridge. Cool stuff.

But…then… you guessed it. Rain! Heavy rain. The heaviest I’ve experienced so far. And the riding at this point was not fun. I needed to exit the city to get to my stop for the night, but it took probably close to an hour of city riding – rain coming down, water splashing on me from passing cars – to do so. The joy I’d felt earlier while watching those horses in that field – it was pretty difficult to muster at this moment. Finally I made it out of the city, after a few frustrating road construction detours, and was cycling along the Elbe River, a river I’ll become quite familiar with as I’ll be riding alongside it for the next couple of days.

The rain finally – finally – subsided. It never really stopped, but did lighten up quite a bit. I eventually made it to the small town of Bönsen and the Dittmer Standing Cafe and Bakery. (That’s a rough translation of the German name, and thankfully, the name is a misnomer, as there actually were chairs.) Honestly I was more in the mood for what I felt was a much-deserved beer, but at this point I could not pass up a convenient warm, dry, open spot to take a break. The sandwich and hot coffee I had were not too shabby. I juiced up my phone again, took some time to dry out, and just embraced the warm, indoor air. I think I lingered for over an hour.

Then it was off to Geestacht, and my next Warm Showers hosts, parents Daniel and Carole and their small children Maya and Lola. I arrived drenched, and the girls helped me with my bags and showed me around the apartment – a lovely, modern place right on the banks of the Elbe River. Three-year-old Maya offered me a slice of pineapple and showed me to my room. Carole said the girls had been excited for my arrival all day. So cute. I got out of my cold, wet clothes and joined the family for a pasta dinner. I had three heaping bowls. I really couldn’t stop until my stomach was bursting, the hot, hearty food being exactly what I needed at that moment.

In between dinner, coffee and conversation, Maya continued to fight for my attention, sitting on my lap several times and asking me to read her stories. She didn’t speak English and of course my German sucks, but we managed to enjoy a couple of books together. At one point she brought me the book, “Goodnight Gorilla,” one that Tricia and I had read hundreds of times to Sammie and Casey when they were kids. It was super awesome.

Daniel is an electrical engineer and Carol a neurologist. We talked for quite a while after dinner, with them telling me all about the sailing trip around the world they plan on taking in two years. Damn! Once again, the people you meet, doing all this crazy, amazing shit! They’ve been planning this trip for the past five or so years, having purchased a boat and done a lot of sailing practice. Their boat is moored in the Spanish Canary Islands and they visit there often to put in the time and practice to be ready for this trip they will be taking. They’ve traveled a ton and were able to give me some advice regarding options for me after my bike tour. I’m not really thinking too much about what to do after I finish cycling, but I will have some opportunities to continue my travels in Europe if I’m not dead once I’m done.

It was requested by Maya that I read her a bedtime story which I was happy to oblige. I haven’t done that in years. Again it was “Goodnight Gorilla” as Lola lay already asleep in the next bed over. What a cute moment. Not something I had expected to be doing on this trip, that’s for sure! After Maya’s bedtime story, it was time for me to hit it as well. I showered, organized some stuff and crashed. Another day in the books. God, can I get some sun tomorrow? Please!!!

10 thoughts on “Start with Sun, End with Goodnight Gorilla

  1. Karla Harriman

    Sounds so fun except for all the rain … the girls are precious … and a full circle moment for you reading the same book you read to your own kids 🥰
    I’m sending good thoughts that the sun ☀️ will soon shine upon you …
    Continued safe peddling Chris …I look forward to your posts and pics … they are delightful to me

  2. Juliette Schneider

    Chris !! You never give up! I’m picturing you riding in the pouring rain and I am so amazed ! Loved reading about your warm shower family and the sweet bedtime story. I live that you are so open to life and meeting new people. Wishing hard for sun for you !

    1. Christopher Kreie Post author

      Thanks Juliette! Yeah, it’s been an experience, for sure. And I’m only five days into it! Thanks for your well wishes. The sun shined down a lot today, so thanks for helping to make that happen. 😉

  3. Dan Murray

    What an amazing experience! Your emotional/mental fortitude to continue is admirable! Proud of you!

  4. Lynne Perry

    Oh my!! Just read this and you are probably riding already in the next day in Germany!! Wishing you sunshine today!!! Awesome perseverance!

  5. Laura Guadalupe Carreon Jimenez

    Esta historia me hace pensar, ¿qué cosas nos ayudan a recargar la energía que nos hacen amar la vida?
    Así como el teléfono es tu guía, sin el cual estarías perdido para completar tu trayecto; veo que las memorias de esos efímeros momentos que conectan el pasado con el presente, son parte de lo que recarga la batería llamada vida. Son parte importante de lo que nos permite mantenernos conectados con el aquí y ahora. Sigo leyendo estas interesantes historias, y pido más fotos de esos paisajes, que voy conociendo a través de tus descripciones pero al no poder mirarlos, tendré ahora que organizar un viaje por Alemania. Me queda pendiente: la foto de los caballos.

    1. Christopher Kreie Post author

      ¡Sí tienes razón! También estoy recargando mi propia batería. ¡Esa es una gran metáfora! No tomé una foto de los caballos. ¡¡¡Oh, no!!!

      Tienes que venir a visitar a tu hija mientras todavía esté aquí. ¡Lo amarías! Gracias por todas tus amables palabras Laura!!!


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