Changing kids' lives from the seat of a bike
The Founders of TWV
Travelling South through Europe
August 1998, Norway
As we biked from Bergen to Drammen, Norway we climbed to elevations of over 4000 feet/1200 meters and dropped back to sea level in a matter of days. Halvar, who we had met on a canoe trip in northern Minnesota last year, invited us to his cabin located at the height of one of Norway's many mountain ranges, Haukeligrend. Thank goodness for a warm and dry cabin. Rick slept and sweated one entire day, recovering from overexertion and exhaustion - the toll of the Norwegian road. Later, we relaxed in the comfort of Halver's mountain home and enjoyed meals of reindeer, mountain trout, and freshly picked berries. His cabin was a traditional Norwegian cabin complete with green grass planted on the tin roof and a sauna. There was a lake nearby, quite cold at 50oF/10oC, but felt very refreshing after the hot sauna.
September 1998, Germany
We have been getting very creative in searching for and finding places to "free camp". In areas like the Rhine and Mosel Rivers in Germany, river traffic and high population density make it difficult to camp in this style. In Traben-Trarbach we headed up the hillside out of town and found a small grass road that led to some small garden areas near a stream. We set up the tent right on the grass road next to a fence. We do not need much space, but this area was about the minimum required - not a lot of room to move around.
The next morning we rode back into town. It was Sunday and we had hoped to find a bakery or market open to buy our daily food supplies. In Germany, however, most shops are closed on weekends. We had not planned well enough to get ourselves supplied for the weekend. Our dietary fear is that we will have to resort to eating spicy rice (white rice with pepper) for dinner - not especially a culinary treat after a day's ride.
Luckily, there was a bakery open and we were able to buy some bread. I asked if there was an open market in town. A talkative older gentleman buying bread replied, "What do you need?" I told him we needed some food supplies for the day. He said nothing was open but welcomed us to join him at his home for breakfast and said he would love to supply us with what we needed for the day. He was the priest for the local Catholic Church and we joined him and two visiting missionaries for breakfast of coffee, eggs, cheese, ham, bread and jam and fresh fruit. He apologized for having to leave so quickly but he had to celebrate Mass. He said, .Take what you need and close the door as you leave.. Tanya and I cleaned the breakfast dishes and straightened up the kitchen, helped ourselves to some food for the day and left. We are learning that things always work out.
September 1998, France
One night, exhausted and struggling over whose turn it was to ask permission to camp, we came upon a farmhouse that had a large orchard in the back - a probable place to camp. A tall, gangly blond man banging iron fence pieces together in the drive said, .No problem, I'm all alone tonight. My friends who usually come over from England to help me fix this place up couldn't come so you're welcome to stay inside.. We saw the opportunity to express our gratitude and helped out as we could around the house. Tanya took to the vacuum cleaner and "Hoover-ed," as Steve, our host, said, the upstairs rooms. I mowed the backyard and adjacent field on a small rider mower until it got dark. I cooked a spaghetti dinner for the three of us and we spent the evening talking about travel and adventure.
October 1998, France
Two dogs razzled me today when I attempted to ask at a farmhouse if we could camp. We had scouted a beautiful place to camp by a stream and thought it would be best to ask at the house nearby for permission. I rode up the gravel path and all at once I saw two dogs coming at me. The German shepherd was on a chain, and before I knew it I had already entered its range. I jumped off my bike and scrambled out of the reach of the chain. The second dog, not on a chain, came at me and I froze where I was. It barked and made vicious jabs at me. The German shepherd strained at his chain and was barking and growling ferociously. I tried a friendly approach with the black dog, a sheep dog of sorts. I slowly moved to give it a chance to smell my hand. It growled and barked and lunged at my leg. I slowly bent down and he moved toward me in a less hostile manner. I pet him on the back, but he quickly turned on me and started to bark again. So, I stood there. If I didn't move they didn't try to bite me. I started to move and he took a nip at my leg. I stood still and wondered what to do. What a predicament! Tanya saw that she might be able to go around the house to see if anyone was home. The problem was that one dog was off a chain and could go for her. As she started around the house a tall man with a giant head of jet-black hair came out from the other direction. He whistled off the dogs and I gathered my breath, asking in French if we could camp across the road, near the stream. No problem, he said, and the dogs would stay with him - comfort and security for another night on the road.
November 1998, Spain
Throughout the UK, Scandinavia and other countries in Europe we had drawn money directly off our bank account using a debit card at automatic teller machines - no problem. Well in Spain, it was not "no problemo". Some machines would not accept our card and in one case I was given a receipt for cash received but no cash! It was "siesta time" (between 2 and 5 p.m.) and the bank was pretty much empty. I managed to get the attention of a woman in the bank and tried to explain the situation. She made a phone call and handed me the phone. I was told to come back to the bank at five o'clock. We had planned to be out of town and camped by that time, but there was little we could do but wait. At five I returned to the bank. Two bank clerks scurried around with papers and receipts from the machine, phone calls were made, lots of action - busy, busy, busy - and I just stood there. After a half-hour I was asked to sign a receipt and I was handed the money I should have received from the machine. Not exactly a comforting feeling, but we now only get cash from machines during regular banking hours!