oday I go out on my own as I am loathe to join the boys for an all-day hot mess at the Schützenfest. I plan to explore the route to Gartow - specifically, the off-road areas as the “recommended route” is along the highway and is - to me - 8.5 km of mind numbingly boring road.
I know, also, that this area brings me close to (or through) the Heide – an area know for its sand and difficult trails.
I pack a bottle of water and try to dress in the coolest clothes I have access to that will also protect me from the sun (an oxymoron to be sure). It will be a hot day. I set my route in the app and start off on my adventure.
The route to Gartow takes me through a usual path – Kolben, Krautze, Vasenthien, Trebel. Once out of Trebel, I begin my off-road experiment to find a passable way to Gartow.
My app instructs me to turn, I look down the road – it looks normal enough. Not the complete wilderness I had been expecting…I pass a somewhat home-made sign that – I think – says that my paved way will end in 1.8 km. Does this mean the road ends? I check my app again – no, this road clearly goes through. Undaunted, I continue on.
Make a U-turn...
My road changes from a paved surface to a dirt surface. I have run out of paved way (as foretold by the homemade sign).
I am warm, but the headwind (always a headwind) keeps me cool and the sun is behind me. I know that I need to take a right somewhere around here – I check my app again. No, it is coming up soon. I continue.
Make a U-turn...
I stop and check the app. Hmmm…I should have turned back there. Confused, I turn to face the sun and ride back from whence I came.
Make a U-turn...
I stop again this time getting off my bike to increase my – or the phone’s – accuracy. I stand in the middle of the path and turn slowly in a circle like someone looking for water with a diving rod. It’s a good thing I am alone on this trail. Eventually, I am able to find the correct direction…
Turn left now!
I look to the left – there is nothing but forest…but wait, I see an opening in the wood ahead. I turn left onto a path that I had past two times before.
Once I am on the right path, the remainder of my ride to Gartow should be easier to navigate. But it is hot. I stop often to rest in the shadow of the forest and make sure I am hydrated. I am visualizing the ice cream cone that I will treat myself to before I start my return journey.
I had thought that I ended this part of my ride at the ice cream dealer, however, when I popped out of the forest trail onto the main road, I realized that I was not at the ice cream shop. No where near the ice cream shop…I stop to look at my app.
Make a U-turn
Hot, sweaty, and dejected, I make a judgement call. It is a bit later than I wanted it to be at this point in my ride and I see that my bike’s battery has only half a charge remaining. Unwilling to spend the time and energy (literally) to find the ice cream shop, I turn around and head toward home…and away from the ice cream.
Suddenly, I am thrust out into the blasting heat of the moor...
The return journey is the one I have the most angst over. Looking on the map, the route seems innocuous enough – there are numerous “paths” crisscrossing the area so it would seem logical that there is at least one way through. However, the Heide is made of low shrubs and heather and…sand. Lots of sand.
The first part is somewhat easy – the route mapped on in the app matches real life and the going is shady and not so very sandy. At least, there is no impediment to my riding. Suddenly, the trees end and I am thrust out into the blasting heat of the moor.
I hear a ping from my phone and I look down at my navigation app. I am at a crossroads. The app says to turn left. I look left and right and straight ahead and back down at the app. I cannot see how turning left will put me in the correct direction. Turning right will lead me back to the highway – certainly a sure thing but not really the point of my excursion. The shortest way between two points is a straight line. Disregarding the app, I forge on – straight ahead.
After pushing my (heavy) bike through several inches of sand for the past 2 km, I am very hot and cranky. Think…pushing a heavy bike through the soft sand at a beach. I happen upon a lone tree under which a bench has been placed. I am thinking to myself who the hell would be all the way out here such that a bench needs to be built. But at the moment I am grateful for the strangeness of people and the shade this tree provides as I sit here and contemplate all the choices that have let me to this point in my life.
A short nap to recharge my battery (as well as my phone’s) and I am ready to get back on the road. I am now about half way through this ill-conceived route of mine through this wasteland. I have to decide if I retreat to the last known crossroad and choose another direction or if I continue on with this path. A quick glance at my remaining energy in my bike battery makes the choice easier. If I go back, I will not have enough power to get me home – even on Eco mode. My path has been determined – forward I go…I am only hoping as I near civilization, the going becomes easier.
Indeed, this is the case. After an additional 15 minutes or so, I am able to ride rather than walk -A vast improvement. Eventually, I reach a forested region which I welcome as a break from the sun and which also provides a pine needle ground covering that makes my going easier. Also, this section look a bit like land of the lost with these sinkholes.
Eventually, I reach “civilization” – or at least a paved road. I am still an hour away from home and my bike’s battery is dangerously low. I switch the power assist to low and hope I can make it. E-bikes are wonderful – unless they are out of power. Then they are so much heavier than an analog bike.
Once I reach the village closest to home, I switch the power assist to high…I am tired, overheated, and – according to my computer – I have enough energy to reach home. I coast into the bike store room on fumes (so to speak). I have never before depleted my battery to this extent on a ride but I am happy I made it home relatively unscathed. Except my phone screen – the one causality on this adventure.