So near, so far

We are only two days from Berlin but it might as well be two hundred. It’s 4:36 in the afternoon and Woodrow is sound asleep. We checked in fifteen minutes ago. Our room is at the intersection of two farm roads, nine miles from the nearest town. We have no food for dinner or breakfast other than the leftovers I brought from Leipzig: a few slices of black bread, some raisins, an apple, and half a jar of jam.Today should have been easy, a 40-miler over gently rolling farm land with a whipping tailwind. It started perfectly with a huge hostile youth breakfast buffet and a quart of coffee. The forty or fifty bites we had from the bedbugs were a minor issue.

We were on the road before seven and within the first half hour the day went sideways and kept on spinning as I made a very wrong turn at a construction detour.

In a car when you go an hour out of the way you flip the car around, scream “fuck” a few times, and endure your wife’s 37 gentle reminders about how she told you to go left and why didn’t you stop and ask?

On a bike it’s all that except you have to pedal back the way you came and if you’re with Woodrow you feel doubly shitty because he’s still cheerful and says “It’s okay, Dad, everybody makes mistakes.”

We got back on the road to Torgau and the problems refused to take the day off. First we had a massive construction detour and then before Eilenburg we got kicked off the highway because it was suddenly for cars only. We sauntered into town, had chocolate croissants and coffee, and remounted.

For a long while things went great. Woodrow pulled down long stretches of bike path and if there is something better than sitting on your son’s wheel on a sunny day abroad I don’t know what it is.

Just before Torgau we hit another detour and it almost proved catastrophic. The already narrow road became narrower and suddenly we were being passed by dozens of giant freight trucks with inches to spare. At one point Woodrow got hit hard by the wind being shed by a passing truck and almost got sucked under its wheels. He instinctively leaned hard and steered for the ditch, which saved his life. We were scared shitless, miles from town and with no other road and no option but continuing.

Then it occurred to me–WWMSD? What would Manslaughter do? He’d fully utilize his MTB, that’s what.

“Ride in front,” I commanded, “and I’ll keep a rear lookout. When a truck comes, I’ll yell ‘truck’ and we’ll hit the ditch and keep pedaling until it passes, then hop back on the tarmac.”

“Ok,” Woodrow said, and for the next five miles that’s exactly what we did, zigzagging from road to ditch and back again. Nothing ups your off-road skills as quickly as the threat of death.

The adrenaline and effort from riding in the ditch wore us out, but we had no more close calls and in Torgau we got lunch and ice cream, and if your adventure ends in ice cream, how bad was it, really?

Unfortunately our hotel room was nine more miles up the road and we resumed ditch-and-tarmac riding after lunch.

Suffice it to say we hate the village of Torgau, but not as much as we’ll hate tomorrow’s stretch to Luckenwalde, which is 40 more miles of the same nonsense. The German drivers are respectful and skilled beyond belief, but the civil engineers definitely consider cyclists third class citizens. Sound familiar, CABO?

Unless you’re on a designated tour route, the bike paths are completely random and stop as abruptly as they begin, which is frustrating when you almost die but which adds to the challenge and therefore the satisfaction. I’m sure that was the engineers’ intent.

The perpetual raw ass from riding in shorts and moldy underwear could have been alleviated with bibs. WHO KNEW???

And …


On the other hand, the manliness of crossing Germany by bike with cheesegrater ass is a kind of high water mark in roughing it.

Well, it’s almost six p.m. And the snores next to me have only gotten deeper. His face and arms are tanned with the color you only seem to get after days and days on a bike. Better have a slice of black bread, smear on some jam with my finger, and call it a day.





34 thoughts on “So near, so far”

  1. Sounds like you’ve got a special kid with you. And that alone, will make this a huge, priceless memory.

  2. Lived in Goettingen in ’86-’87. Got around on a used department store bike. Enjoying the trip down “BRD” memory lane. Good stuff.

  3. You go guys!…I’m enjoying the adventure albeit without the cheese grater ass.

  4. Very cool kid! Of course, he’s dad isn’t so bad either, just more colorful vocabulary. 😉 Enjoy the journey, it will it end all too soon! Sort of like raising kids.

  5. You won the lottery of life with that young man! His smile thru it all tells a lot about his days with you! Enjoy the rest of your journey & thanks for sharing!

  6. Pulling up Germany on Google Maps with Bike mode I see exactly what you mean. A whole network of non-interconnected bike paths that all seem to reach out from villages to the point of “Well that’s far enough for us” and then you are on your own.

    Keep doing WMSWD and you should make it.

  7. Great story Seth! The father-son bonding experience that’s happening on this journey is priceless. You both will be forever grateful for it.

  8. “The German drivers are respectful and skilled beyond belief, ….”
    Where’d you find those?

  9. Seth, these entries are so good that I think they’ll make a great start to your next book, Lesson Learned on a bike with my Son.

    Please write it!

  10. Oh dear. Any time you need invoke the “What Would Manslaughter Do?” rule to guide you, it’s fair to say you are in some deep shit. Happy you and Woodrow lived to blog about it.

    1. What WOULD Manslaughter do? Aside from fall off his bike and break something, of course.

      Tomorrow we storm the Reichstag!

  11. Really enjoying your trip report. Especially the part about me not being in it. Should be a good day in Germany today with Geschke’s win.

  12. Hello fsethd-san, Woodrow, and All,

    The trip would be less interesting without some hardship.

    Sounds like fun!

    I know it is blasphemy but would not it be great if those engineers from the Netherlands and Denmark could advise the Germans on how to build some protected bike lanes?

    Is the law in Germany that bicycles have the same rights as vehicles? ……. so you could position yourselves in the center of the travel lane and make the trucks see you and slow until it was safe for them to pass.

    Stay safe ……….



    +1 mph Faster

    1. They are awash in protected bike lanes, they just don’t go where you want to go, aren’t always connected to anything, and add at least 10% more distance to any intercity trip, up to 30%.

      Not sure what the mechanism is for getting other nationalities’ engineers to redesign the domestic approach to bikes.

      A little equality would be nice.

  13. Great stories, a PV sent me your link and I’ve enjoyed reading your adventure with your son.

    I really laughed about the stock trading story too.

    All good times.

    Enjoy the rest of your journey,

    Michael (PV guy)

  14. That is one fucked up trip you are on. I’d get my ass home ASAP. Fuck the Germans.

  15. We hosted a German exchange student from a town you passed there (Eilenburg). Nice girl, bigger WWE fan than my kids ever were.
    Her favorite t-shirt “Haters love me, cuz I’m awesome” would make a good cycling jersey too.

  16. Hi Seth and Woodrow,
    seit 2 Tagen keine Nachrichten von euch.
    Ich hoffe es geht euch gut.
    Gruß aus Wesseling.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: