Friday, June 25, 2010

Hamburg, Germany

Friends: Even if the daylight had hardly begun to wane at 10:30 p.m. when I walked out of the bar where I watched Germany beat Ghana 1-0, there was a bright full moon just rising over the trees providing enough illumination to bike by. Within ten minutes I came upon a clump of trees beyond the outskirts of Husan, a port on the North Sea, to disappear into, but it was such a pleasant evening I couldn't quit riding.

Plus my lungs needed some purging after having just spent two hours in a smoke-filled bar. Even though I was usually asleep by now, being out on my bike in the daylight, I didn't feel tired at all. And I couldn't help but be a bit charged from the enthusiasm of a bar packed with exultant German soccer fans. It hadn't been an easy win with the lone goal of the game coming half-way through the second half, making the game all the more intense.

Though not everyone in the bar was fully focused on the game, this was not like a Super Bowl gathering of wise-cracking and partying friends not really caring about one team or another or even the game. National honor was at stake in this huge event that comes along every four years and captures more global attention than even the Olympics or The Tour de France. As many people may watch the Olympics, but they don´t have the fervor or the commitment of these soccer fans. They really care.

There were three large screen TVs in three overlapping rooms in the neighborhood, working-class bar. I arrived just in time to lay claim in to the last available booth. A few minutes later I was joined by seven 18-year old girls who were more interested in the guys in the bar than in the game. They hardly gave the screen a look, quietly chatting amongst themselves and with the occasional guy who slipped in for a few moments with them.

They may have not been much interested in the game, but being at a bar where it was being shown was definitely the place to be. They didn't have to speak loud to be heard as there was little banter or commentary from the crowd as they concentrated on the game. I didn't need to know much German to follow the broadcaster, as he said hardly more than the name of each player as he touched the ball in a dry, almost hushed, matter-of-fact tone. He didn't need to hype the action, as everyone understood what was at stake. Nor did he go delirious with delight when a goal was scored. He left that to his viewers. When Germany finally did score, there was a great release of emotion, but it didn't last long, as the action quickly resumed and Ghana was on the attack.

I was hoping Germany would score another and sew up the game, so I could make an early departure and get out of the city while its streets were empty. But the post-game traffic was minimal, as was the revelry. It is still too early in the tournament to get too excited. With the win Germany qualified for the final single-elimination field of sixteen. Now it really gets serious. Two weeks to go. Too bad the final week conflicts with The Tour. I may have seen the last German game on German soil, but with luck I may be able to experience a Dutch game while on their turf.

A low mist was beginning to gather over the landscape beyond Husan as I pedaled along, such as I usually see being burned off early in the morning. There was a dead calm, no wind nor noise nor much traffic. My legs nonchalantly went about their business making circles and circles and circles without any prodding. I felt as if I could ride through the night. This is what I live for--the end of the day euphoria when conditions are ideal and I don´t want to stop riding. I´d had a sublimely perfect day, starting some 14 hours and 85 miles ago in Denmark.

It brought to mind Julie from earlier in the trip. Her constant refrain was "How many more miles until we've done 50," her quota, so we could stop. I didn't realize she was such a cyclist. That´s not the regard of a devoted cyclist. She made it sound as if the riding was a job, a nine-to-fiver, that she wanted to get over with so she could have her bottle of wine.

The truly committed cyclist never wants his day of cycling to end. The only reason to stop is to rest and refuel, so he can resume. When such a cyclist reaches his goal for the day, whether it be a destination or a certain number of miles, it should always be a dilemma of whether to stop or to push on a little further.

But one must think about the morrow and not totally deplete himself. If I were obsessed with centuries, I could have ridden for an hour and had another, but I made eleven p.m. my deadline and stuck to it. When eleven struck, there was a meadow blocked by a hedge of trees for my campsite. The weeds were higher than they looked, up to my thighs, and already taking on a dew. Mixed in amongst the weeds were some nettles that gave me a sting and kept my shins and calves tingling all night and most of the next day.

My campsite was a little too close to the road to be able to sleep soundly when the morning rush of traffic began. With less than eight hours of sleep my legs felt leaden and sluggish for the first time since leaving the Alps. I had originally hoped to get Hamburg over with, 90 miles away, but I feared running out of energy before I had escaped its sprawl, so I stopped after 70 miles. I took a long lunch outside a bike shop and put a new chain on the bike and replaced the rear tire. The tire had worn through the tread after 3,000 miles, a little earlier than usual.

When I got within 15 miles of Hamburg´s town center the urban sprawl began and I was relegated to sidewalk riding, limiting my speed to less than ten miles per hour with all the curbs to go over and the not-so-smooth pavement and remaining on heightened alert for cars coming out of driveways. I have more close calls riding on bike paths than on the road. It is going to take me half a day to get through Hamburg. I only went astray once heading into town. I will be happy if I do no worse as I head out.

Just eight days to the start of The Tour.

Later, George

1 comment:

Stan said...

The Germans did well against England 4-1, but their next opponent is Argentina. I think the German dreaming could soon end! It's a shame the only two teams that have put up some solid results have to face each other so soon.

The overlap of the World Cup with the Tour De France is annoying, but only happens every four years. Professional sports have had a tendency to make their seasons longer and longer, leading inevitably to overlapping with the begin of other seasons. I think the ice hockey season in the USA has gotten ridiculously long. Money makes the world go round and I'm sure that's the reason for the ever expanding seasons.