Confessions of a Slug Killer

I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven. I haven’t felt this relaxed and at peace since I was drinking a cold beer in the sunshine back at my little camper cabin at Campingplatz Werben nearly two weeks ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, yet, at the same time, Werben feels like a different lifetime. So much, and so many miles, have happened since then.

Currently I’m on the terrace of Warm Showers hosts Kerstin and Beate. It’s a beautiful, sunny morning, I’m on my third cup of hot black coffee, I’m enjoying my second round of homemade bread, butter and jam, and I’m overlooking their stunning, serene garden. A butterfly just flew by, I can hear birds in the nearby trees and as I scan their property I can see perennials, roses, small shrubs and vegetable gardens filled with cabbages, tomatoes, green beans, onions and more. I think maybe you’re feeling more relaxed just reading this. (I hope that’s true.) It’s a rest day for me today, only my second rest day so far of my trip – the first being last Saturday in Berlin. Tomorrow will actually be another rest day. I hadn’t planned it that way in my itinerary, but due to circumstances I’ll explain later in this post, I pushed on more aggressively to arrive in Dortmund a day earlier than planned, thus giving me two whole days of rest before continuing on to what amounts to the second half of my journey, more or less.

It’s hard to explain just how I’m feeling right now. A simple morning, coffee and bread, time to relax, some sunshine. It’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things. Mornings of this sort can be quite common in the normal comings and goings of life. But, on a trip like this, I guess it’s the small pleasures that really stand out. The kindness of “strangers,” the generosity of people, time to savor what’s familiar yet new. Having a chance to breathe when normally I’d already be on the road, legs pedaling, lungs sucking in air, heart racing. To just breathe. To savor, for as long as I want, some coffee, fresh air, and time. Time. That’s maybe the biggest pleasure of all. Time. Time to look around, listen, think, eat, drink and contemplate this crazy, gorgeous experience I’m having. I can’t overstate just how calm and content I feel at this moment. Bottle this up, sell it on the Internet and I’d be a millionaire.

It’s been several days since I’ve written, for reasons that include time spent watching football, long days due to rain, and longer days due to long miles. I’ve had little time to decompress at the end of a full day of cycling or in the morning prior to one. As I mentioned earlier, I chose to arrive in Dortmund a day earlier than planned. I’m still deciding whether that was a good idea or not. I suppose it has to be a good one, since I just went on and on about how much I’m enjoying my morning. Okay, now it’s settled. Arriving to Dortmund yesterday rather than today was definitely a good idea.

I questioned it after I made the decision because my day of cycling on Saturday nearly broke me. I’d been having trouble finding folks in the small villages that gave a damn about soccer, and knowing that Germany was to be playing a match last night, I wanted to be in Dortmund for the football fun. Go to the Fan Zone. Hang with the locals. So, after Nohra on Thursday, I decided to make the journey to Dortmund in three days, rather than in the previously planned four. Looking at my plans, I realized if I could make it to the city of Lippstadt Saturday night, that I’d already have a Warm Showers host ready for me, just a day earlier than planned. So, I checked the weather to make sure, if I was doing all these extra miles, that I’d be doing them in the sun, then replanned my route. Saturday became the big day. The big, fucking day, pardon my French. I knew it would be rough, as it would be the most miles I’d done in one day, but I told myself if I went at a less aggressive pace and didn’t worry too much about time, that I’d arrive to Lippstadt just fine.

But… I underestimated a few things. First of all, 80 miles is 80 miles. There’s really no way to sugarcoat that. I’d never, ever ridden that far in one day before in my life. Second, I was riding all day into a 10-15 mile-per-hour headwind. I was riding straight west. The wind was blowing straight east. Not fun. Third, the elevation. All told I climbed 2,788 feet, including a 550-foot killer-of-a-climb in a span of just over 3 miles. I knew I’d be climbing, but I didn’t know it was going to be that much. If I’d known, I’d probably not have attempted the ride like I did. I crawled into Lippstadt. It was actually a little scary just how exhausted I felt. I realize I pushed my body more than was probably healthy or safe for me. I did it, sure. I made it, but I think the toll it took on my body was probably too high a price. Even that next morning, while laying in bed, I almost felt physically ill, I was so tired. I didn’t like the feeling. Perhaps it’s how marathon runners feel the day after their run. I’m not sure. It freaked me out a little having this feeling that I’d perhaps pushed my body further than it should ever be pushed. But, thankfully, I was able to sleep a little later that morning, I had time for a big breakfast (two actually!) and by mid-morning I was feeling mostly okay.

In addition to Kerstin and Beate here in Dortmund, I’ve had two other Warm Showers host families since leaving Leipzig. There was the family of Phillip and Katrin, and their three small children in Norha, and the family of Oliver and Sarah and their two pre-teen boys in Lippstadt. Tremendous experiences, both of them! Honestly, this whole Warm Showers thing is like a gift from the gods. It’s incredible. I can’t imagine doing this trip and not using Warm Showers. In the tiny, lovely village of Norha, Phillip and Katrin welcomed me with open arms, put me up in the loft above their garage, fed me a meal of stewed ground beef, cabbage and potatoes, and sent me off the next morning loaded up with sandwiches and sausages Katrin’s mother had given to her to give to me. They were such a beautiful, giving, happy family.

In Lippstadt, Oliver and Sarah greeted me with a cold radler then invited me for dinner with the family in their garden. In between we watched some football on TV with their two boys. They are definitely a football family, which was fun for me because other families I’ve stayed with have not been all that into football. We watch a little bit of the 6:00 match and then after dinner and a shower, some of the 9:00 match. My eyes couldn’t stay open a minute longer, so their comfortable bed in their guest room was everything I’d needed after the killer ride of that day.

I’m a slug killer. I confess. Slugs are quite common in Germany, I’ve found. Huge, ugly, brown, black and orange slugs. And thanks to the rains we’ve been having, they’re everywhere. In certain places they’re dotted all over the bike paths. It’s tempting to make a game of sorts out of it. Aim for the slugs. Ten points each! But, even though I’m not that cold-hearted, I’ve definitely killed my fair share. It’s impossible not to. At times I’ve tried my best to avoid them, but I’ve also found that it’s a fool’s errand. I can’t spend all my attention worried about dodging every lazy, slimy slug I see. So, sorry to all you German slugs that have become collateral damage on my 30-day ride across your country. You’ve served your fellow slugs well. And we’ll remember your courage and bravery in the line of duty. RIP my German slug friends.

Alright, time to move on to my next “rest day” activity. Maybe yoga, or finish cleaning my bike or some planning for future Warm Showers host possibilities. I’ve got more time than I know what to do with! I’ve been texting with my host for tonight, Marvin. I’ll leave here in a few hours, head to his place closer into the city center, then he wants to take me on a bike tour of the city. OK, Marvin. If you insist. That’s nice of him, but I guess maybe he doesn’t realize the last thing I really want to do is to get back on my bike! But, I’ll be riding without any bags so I’ll feel free! OK, let’s do it! Tonight is a match in Dortmund between France and Poland. I again plan to visit a Fan Zone public viewing. Maybe Marvin will join me and we can toast our day together with a couple of evening beers. Prost!

5 thoughts on “Confessions of a Slug Killer

  1. Karla Harriman

    I’m glad to hear you are enjoying some TIME … and that you are finding some other turbo fans and enjoying meals and visits with your host families Fun!

  2. Laura Guadalupe Carreón

    La descripción del jardín me hace sentir incluso la brisa que pudiese percibirse, el aleteo de los insectos que se acercan con curiosidad, mientras estas tomando tu café. Celebro que tengas esos momentos de paz interior que nos hacen sentirnos presentes con la dicha del ahora. El tiempo es algo que siempre esta ahí, hasta que este regalo divino se nos termine, el problema es que no siempre lo disfrutamos. Esos momentos de tensión donde el stress de subir la cuesta, el sentir el corazón a tope, y solo pensar que esto termine, que llegue, que lo logre, hace que queramos que el tiempo corra más deprisa, pero no un segundo siempre será un segundo, es solo nuestra necesidad de que aquello pase. Este sentir es bueno y es malo, porque nos hace pasar por alto miles de instantes. El punto extremo al que has llevado tu capacidad, si ahora desde otra perspectiva, analizar como respondió a cada uno de los retos a los que lo pusiste, te haría ver que tu preparación ha tenido frutos exitosos, pero te pido tomes todo con calma, que no pongas en el límite tu cuerpo porque hay mucho que ver y vivir aún, tienes que llegar a Colonia, una de las ciudades mas hermosas del mundo y compartirnos tu experiencia. Finalmente, tus amables anfitriones, son un regalo bien correspondido de tu noble corazón.
    Aquí sigo la historia, porque la hecho mí aventura también.
    Éxito, y quedo pendiente del siguiente capítulo.


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