Q45 Adventures: Gorginchem to Cologne

The remaining days on our bike and barge trip took us down the Rhine all the way to Cologne.

The morning we left the sweet little village of Gorinchem, we stumbled into morning Dutch bicycle traffic. As we struggled to get our bearings and figure which way to leave the city, students and other cyclists of all ages swirled around us pedaling their upright dutch bicycles with baskets in the front filled with backpacks and briefcases. There seemed to be thousands of them. I found it disconcerting and we ended up just moving with the flow of bicycle traffic. Soon all the cyclists were gone and we were lost (again). The cycling part of our trip was self-guided and the maps the tour company gave us were not detailed. This revealed an interesting dynamic in our partnership. Jim liked to use his phone’s map feature to move generally in the direction we were supposed to end up and enjoy the adventure along the way. I had fear of missing out on something wonderful we were supposed to see and wanted to stay on the path. I like to follow instructions. We ended up doing a combination and saw wonderful things on and off the prescribed path.

Bicycle touring map from Gorginchem

Throughout the tour, we took ferries and cycled bridges over the river and back many times. In Arkel, we took a tiny ferry that could only hold 10 cyclists.

A tiny ferry that could only hold 10 cyclists

On the far side of the ferry was a tiny bakery and I delighted in lemon creme pie (ok, I’m off my diet while abroad) and tea served in the English fashion.

In Arkel, we took a tiny ferry that could only hold 10 cyclistsTea on the river banksTea and lemon cream pie on the banks

Later that day we caught up with a young German couple who were on our boat and had excellent English. Both had spent a school year in the US (in Louisiana and Kentucky!) It was enlightening to hear of their experiences both in Germany and the US. We wore helmets and the German couple did not. I asked them why and they gave basically the same answer anyone else does: “I should, but they mess up my hair.” They mentioned that the German government was producing ads showing sexy, scantily clad supermodels cycling and wearing helmets. They reported the advertisements had increased helmet use despite the fact that everyone laughed at them.

My favorite hours of the day were spent watching glass blowers in Leerdam. Leerdam is the woodworking and glass capital of Germany. The glass factory there produces 1.2 million beer bottles per day. We were fascinated with the skill of the glass blowing artisans. The docent told us it took at least 7 years to become proficient enough to be a glass blower and 10 to become a master glassblower. It looked like hot exacting work to me, but there is magic in manipulating liquid glass into fragile, exquisite art.

 Glass blowers in Leerdam, Germany

In Culemborg we had a picnic lunch and two ladies joined us on the opposite bench. They were both elderly and reported they were on their daily ride, a large loop of about 12-15 miles that crossed over the river. One of them smoked a cigarette while she explained that at her age she used an electric bike.

In Rhenen, we watched as several strong men pitched hay bales far over their heads into a truck at sunset in the shadow of the Cathedral.

In Rhenen, we watched as several strong men pitched hay bales far over their heads into a truck at sunset in the shadow of the Cathedral.

The next day promised rain in the afternoon, so Jim and I put our Q45s into overdrive and raced the storm to Arnhem. We were up on a dike so we could see the ominous dark clouds and pouring rain behind us. We made into Arnhem just in time to park our bikes and run into a cafe for smoothies and tea. We later learned that most of our boat mates got wet while trying to find shelter from the heavy rain and hail.

Racing rain to Arnhem on Cruzbike Q45 touring recumbent bike

In Arnhem, Germany before the storm on our Cruzbike Q45 touring recumbent bikes

Rain pouring down while we were dry and warm inside.

One evening, I noticed some of the other riders sitting on pillows. I sometimes take for granted the incredible comfort of our bikes and forget that after several days of touring, a traditional bike can cause enduring butt pain. We also observed that the Q45 was really a terrific bike for the varied surfaces we found in Holland, Germany and Kyiv. The comfort of the suspension (and our terrific new cushions - thanks Robert) make the Q45 a magic carpet ride.

We left the Netherlands that night on the boat bound for our first German city, Emmerich am Rhein. In the morning, we stumbled onto a Corpus Christi celebration in Wissel. The people of the town were parading from the church led by the local marching band. We sat quietly on our bikes and observed the solemn celebration.

Corpus Christi celebration

After cycling by more gorgeous gardens, wildflowers and poppy fields we finished in Xanten which contains an archeological site and museum on the ruins of the site of a large city dating back to the Roman occupation of Germany.

Bicycle touring on the Cruzbike Q45 touring recumbent bicycle in Germany

Bicycle touring on the Cruzbike Q45

The museum and reconstructions reminded us of what an incredibly sophisticated culture the Romans had. All of the stone for the important Roman buildings had to be imported from far away places. They built beautiful temples, baths and public spaces with the stone. After Rome fell, the stone was recycled by the locals into sometimes less sophisticated uses and almost none of the buildings remain, but the recreations and the gorgeous artifacts were beautifully presented.

The museum and reconstructions reminded us of what an incredibly sophisticated culture the Romans had.

Much of the area of Germany along the Rhein is very industrial and the barge carried us past those less picturesque areas, but we were glad to understand how and why Germany is the industrial and financial heart of the EU. They are making lots of stuff there if the number of smokestacks and factories we floated by is any judge.

German industry

For our last day on the barge, we rode from Dusseldorf to Cologne. We got some great pictures of our boat and Dusseldorf from a couple of the many bridges over the Rhein there.

Photo of our barge from a bridge

Our best moment of the day was lunch at a Biergarten near a ferry in Zons. We pedaled through some lovely villages and also rode right by a Ford automotive plant that was at least 2 miles long. Our boat stopped just short of Cologne, so Jim and I rode past it and into downtown Cologne to see the lovely Cathedral and take in the bustle of the city.

Cathedral in Cologne, Germany

Sightseeing in Cologne on Cruzbike Q45 touring recumbent bikes

Cologne architecture from Cruzbike Q45 touring bicycle

We got back to the boat in time to repack our Q45 touring bikes and enjoy the last dinner with our newfound friends. Early the next morning we took a high-speed train from Cologne to Frankfurt where we boarded an airplane for the last part of our adventure: Kyiv Ukraine.

Traveling with Cruzbike Q45 touring recumbent bikes

Q45 Adventure Travel Resources:

Guide: How to Pack a Q45 in a Tern Airporter Suitcase

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