Around the Pond: 5000 km on the North Sea Cycle Route

The target of my first day on this tour is Uelzen, about 70 km north of my home. In Uelzen is Jan Cordes, the bicycle shop where I bought my bike half a year ago. In these six month I have ridden 3000 km, and I want to have the mechanic have a look at the bike before I start my big tour. I plan to spend the night at a campsite in Westerweyhe, a village northwest of Uelzen.

In the morning I pack my bike and try to clean up my house a bit. There is still lots of things to do before leaving for three month, but at 11:00 o'clock I decide to just pack up and go, otherwise I will still be busy for hours. Friends will be looking after the house while I am gone, so at least I don't have to worry the next three month whether I have switched off all appliances, or left the water running.

The route to Uelzen is already familiar, I've been cycling there a few times during the last six months. For now it doesn't feel like I'm an a big tour. After a few kilometers I take a road that leads for 10 kilometers along the Volkswagen test track (the Wolfsburg Volkswagen factory is just 20 km south from here). The road is closed to general traffic, only Volkswagen special permit and agricultural traffic allowed, though nobody seems to mind the occasional cyclist. After a while a military training area borders the road on the other side. For a few kilometers it feels confined: the fence of the test area on the right side of the road, military warning signs on the left.

For most of the way to Uelzen I ride directly along the Elbe-Seitenkanal, or on roads parallel to it. The gravel tracks on the embankment of the canal are open to cyclists, but riding over gravel is more strenuous than over tarmac, there are a lot of potholes, and the scenery gets a bit dull after a while. The weather is sunny and warm. A bit too warm for cycling, I think.

I make a short stop in Wittingen to buy some food for tonight, and a break at the Uelzen ship lock. This lock lifts the cargo ships and sport boats over a height difference of 23 meters. There is a visitors platform where you can watch the ships in the lock.

While I'm at the lock black clouds begin to mount up the in east, and I hurry to get to the cycle shop. Just in time - five minutes after I arrive a thunderstorm comes in and it starts pouring. After half an hour my bike is declared fit for the journey. The thunderstorm has moved on, too. Now it is just raining.

In the rain I ride the last few kilometers to the campsite, where I pitch my tent in the rain - not what I hoped for for the first night. The campsite in Westerweyhe is still a bit of a construction site, but it has a small shop where I can buy bread in the morning. The showers are free and clean, and this is the only campsite I met on my tour that has posts to lock the bikes to. Most of the campsite is used by caravans and RVs, but there is some space set aside for tents.

At first I'm the only one with a tent, but later two other tents get set up, one also by a cyclist.

Day 1 - June 3rd: Bergfeld to Uelzen


Bergfeld - Knesebeck - Wittingen - Bad Bodenteich - Uelzen


Distance: 79 km
Cycle time: 4:15 h
Average speed: 18.49 kmh
Total distance: 79 km
© Thomas Stets
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