Water World Double Century – How do you get from here to there?
Two days after I completed the ride and I still walk funny. It’s a little bit mechanic or perhaps a scene from Monty Python’s silly walk sketch, but it just does not feel like the normal walk. Completing the Water World Double Century ride feels like a huge achievement, a battle won and an epic adventure to boot. It involved a massive storm, two days of riding a total of 390 km (that’s 242 miles you imperialists), 3 power bars, 2 oat bars, a very German apple, massive hotel breakfast, 25 hours on the road and roughly 8 small deers. Oh yeh, there was a proper rainbow, just you know, ’cause they sometimes pop up after the storm.
The first Water World Double Century started from a link a family member shared about an area in North Germany called The European Route of Brick Gothic. The name is of course a marketing disaster, but I conveniently ignored the name and focused on the area. I had already ridden in parts of it, but when I looked at the map and did some investigation, I realized that this was a Water World. The whole area is a little bit of landed surrounded by canals, lakes and waterways. One lake leads to another which leads to a river and the story just continues. It also includes the biggest lake inside Germany – Müritz lake.
So I spent several nights practicing “the best way to learn is by doing.” I poured over GPS routes both on Ride With GPS, GPSies, and some other less known sites. I plotted two routes: one going north and one heading back south. The north ride was a combination of well known European bike routes such as the Berlin-Copenhagen way, as well as forest roads and loads of what looked like gravel. The second day was a tour along the curves of the lakes. Based on the map this was about half the ride and the rest was a ride through the deep unexplored corners of the state of Mecklenburg and its neighboring state Brandenburg.
Invitation to the very small group of other cyclists were sent. But… Well, the answers, encouraging and excited as they were, led to no takers. So the ride included exactly one participant – yours truly. While conceptualized as a Brevet, without any awards or checkpoints, it ended up being an endurance test and a hell of a way to see a beautiful corner of the country that gets a lot less advertising than it deserves.
We (that would be Hunter and me) left on Saturday morning. Based on some back of the envelop calculations, I figured that the northern ride will take about 10 hours, and since the sun only sets at 21:30, there was no real rush to start the ride at an uncivilized hour. Initially, while planning the tour, I debated if the tour should start from the center of Berlin or if a train ride out will be advisable. I figured that the 30 km out of the city could also be interested if a different route was taken than the usual route so that distance was added and the ride started from one of the best cafes in Berlin: Cafe am Ende Der Welt.
As soon as I left the city the ride delivered on its promise: Water World! I followed a water way which turned into a lake, which turned into another waterway and…well you know the drill.
The road turned into a gravel path in the forest with large bodies of water to the right. It was cool in the forest shade and hardly any people were to be seen. At this point with the road turning into the following image, I suspected that this might be a rather boring route.
But before I realized it, the road opened up and I was actually riding the Berlin-Copenhagen bike path. Typically this would have been the easy part of the ride, but not when the road turns into this:
This scene looked like a giant ran through the bike path knocking all the trees on the side of the path into the road. It was definitely no longer the Berlin-Copenhagen path. While I was doing my best to ride around, the few other cyclists that were stumped by this sudden outburst of massive tree suicide, did not seem to have that option. So I decided, in the spirit of Brevet of course, to stop and help. This was a massive karma point collection since a fellow that was stuck between one tree and the next was about to give up on his plan to make it to Copenhagen. His bike, loaded to the max with the latest Ortlieb bags, weighted so much that he could not lift it. We carried his bike together over the tree carcasses and slowly made progress. After about 2 kilometers of walking his steel touring bike we reached the end of the tree carnage area and I bid him good luck and jumped back up on Hunter and continued.
The scene alternated between tiny villages, a constant theme during the whole ride, fields in various degrees of harvest and of course lakes! Never was there a period longer than 30 minutes where a lake or some waterway was not accompanying Hunter and me.
The road also included other riders. These were characterized by an abundance of Ortlieb bags, Shimano dynamo hubs, flat bars and orange Garmin GPS devices that looked like a walkie-talkie. As opposed to my fellow riders on other weekends, they all admired Hunter and made comments on the speed in which I was touring. Now here was a welcome change – a group of riders that think that I’m actually fast! That was a new experience not to mention a nice complement. At certain locations along the path there were even little cyclist snack/coffee bars. They reminded me, even thought it sounds absurd, of travel coffee shops in Thailand or India – unassuming places where the company and crowd play a bigger role than the menu. Thumbs up, I only wished I had time for a coffee and a chat.
At some point, as I was riding the path between relatively high shrubs and overtaking a group of three men, one of which riding a Salsa, a very sudden change in scenery occurred. The shrubs disappeared all of a sudden dead tree stems were sticking out of a swamp, looking menacing.
As I stopped in my track and took the iPhone out I realized that the threatening nature of the swap was softened by the appearance of a rainbow in the distance. It was massive and, possibly for the first time ever, I could actually see the place in which it touched the ground!
But I promised a storm now didn’t I? Well…rainbows mean water in the air, so I was not concerned, but not 30 minutes went by and some nasty looking clouds were arriving. After living in this part of the world for 10 years, I believe that I developed a sense of “oh I’m so going to get it.” I tried to push onwards as fast as I could knowing that a city called Strasen was not far away, but the rain, coming at me from the north, was faster and about 3 km before said sanctuary, the clouds opened and massive amount of rain started pouring down.
Now, I have a certain policy about getting wet. You can only get so wet and then you’re already wet and getting wetter is not an option. Nice theory when in the city, but sadly it did not work in this case. I was hiding under a tree on the side of the road, trying to find the bigger leaves to cover Hunter and myself. Looking on the road that was not 30 centimeters away, I realized that I was standing in a waterfall. And just as I thought “wow this is the most fierce rainfall I ever saw” it started raining harder and lightening and thunder arrived. I did hope for an adventure and I certainly got it. As many storms in North Germany, I knew that it is just a matter of minutes before it will leave and indeed 15 minutes later the clouds continued on their way south-east and I jumped back on Hunter, completely soaked, shivering, and rode onwards. As I suspected Strasen was just up the road. I stopped for tea and to squeeze the water out of my shoes, warmed up, and continued north.
The rest of the day was an exercise in trying to stay warm and making it to the destination before nighttime. With the trees-covered road, the rain storm and the tea, I had lost significant time and still had the best fire roads ahead of me. I’m used to riding alone in the forests, but in the dark, without any lights, that notion seemed less appealing. The fire roads though were fantastic! They were wet, misty and made that crunchy sound of tires eating gravel. I was stoked to come out of a fire road, which turned into a gravel road by the train tracks, just as the sun was in the right position to paint the air yellow and leave the trees painted green. Yep, that’s the image at the top of the page.
I rode into Waren and checked into the hotel around 21:00. Light was already very dim and the temperatures dropped. I was grateful to have a working heater in my room where I could dry my everything. Instead of dinner, I snacked on dried fruits and before long I was heading to sleepland. The first 181 km were done. 199 km to go.
Lessons Learned from Day 1
- If you’re going to bring a lock and carry all that weight, you should really make sure that you also have the key for said lock. Otherwise, you’re just transporting weight around.
- Weather is a very fickle think here in Northern Europe. It can get cold in August and massive rain storms do decide to visit now and again. Be ready! There is a reason why knee and arm warmers exist and why rain jackets weight only a few grams. Take them with you!
- Stopping for a nice meal of fish and potatoes is not a good idea. It might be the fact that your body is focused on generating energy for the legs and is neglecting the stomach which then complains and has its own way to revenge. Oat bars, dried fruits and energy bars proved themselves to be excellent food supply.
- Before the next tour, get a rack. Hunter certainly has enough rack-mounts. Carrying anything in a backpack for long distances really takes away from the feeling of wind at your back. Your back is there to schlep the bag and that’s just not cool.
- If you’re carrying stuff with you, put them in a water resistant bags. Yep, my SAG bag was not water resistant enough.