What a Glorious Day to Bike to Barcelona

The last days in København zipped past. I found myself a very serviceable blue bike, thanks to Simon Søndergaard of Buddha Bikes, who got it mostly outfitted for the tour and made recommendations for the rest.

Jon departed to continue adventuring in the sun-flooded reaches of Scandinavia. Madison returned to København after a successful workshop in Århus. We biked around the city a bit, enjoyed the company of our Couchsurfing hosts, interviewed random strangers at the Lakes about why they love København, visited Rasmus Grusgaard at Fab Lab Nordvest again, and of course packed our panniers at the last possible minute.

Three lovely ladies at the Lakes tell us why they love København: the biking and the ice cream and the biking.

Three lovely ladies at the Lakes tell us why they love København: the biking and the ice cream and the biking.

I hardly slept the night prior to our departure I was so excited. Asger, Martin, and Sarah even bestirred well before their typical rising hour to see us off. We wobbled down the driveway, shouting our goodbyes. Within five minutes my wrists throbbed from fighting such unfamiliar heavy handlebars, weighed down with our camping gear. After nearly crashing into a couple pedestrians, I finally understood just how large my turning radius is.

Madison’s Couchsurfing host Vagn Steendahl had offered to bike with us our first day, and a spare apartment in his parents’ guesthouse near Næstved for our use. We met him outside his København apartment. He waltzed out in a hilarious tropical shirt, perfect for the flawless weather gracing the first day of our ambitious expedition.

We had 84 km mapped out for our ride to Tystrup, where Vagn’s family lives. We breaked long and often. We drank a couple beers in a couple different fields. The sun shone all day, nary a cloud. We basked in it, and compared awkward tan lines as the day progressed. The wind blew, but never too strong. We guided our bikes up and down what felt like every hill in Denmark. We paused to hop a short fence to sit above some train tracks. The cops appeared but were far from aggressive, they were just curious and wanted to make sure we weren’t being reckless out there on the ledge.

Vagn tells MadRim about his cultural experiences with Couchsurfing.

Vagn tells MadRim about his cultural experiences with Couchsurfing.

When you’re biking with half your body weight in gear strapped to your bike, speed management is crucial. You find yourself cruising out of control on the downhill. A pothole or an errant gust of wind could spell disaster. At the same time, the second you hit the tiniest bit of uphill, your bike comes to a grinding halt and you’re forced to labor over the pedals like some beast of burden.

Vagn kindly bought us pizza that first evening, which we devoured while watching ducks in a park close to Tystrup. When we got to the guesthouse, we gingerly dismounted our bikes. How to say this without being crude? It felt like my vagina had been replaced with live coals. There’s really no dainty way to describe such pain. Biking is hard on the tuckus.

I showered and was asleep before the sun had set. The next morning, my body felt stiff but healed. We breakfasted on traditional Danish biscuits and yogurt. We had an easy day ahead of us, a mere 26 km. Vagn graciously served as our guide again. We pedaled out into the springtime sunshine and practically raced to Næstved. Madison and I got a couple supermarket beers, hugged Vagn goodbye, and drank our victory brews near a harbor.

Vagn leads to way from Tylstrup to Næstved.

Vagn leads the way from Tystrup to Næstved.

Then it was time for some professionalism. We arrived at Fab Lab Danmark around noon, and spent the next several hours interviewing Maks Bragt and other members of the Fab Lab. I don’t want to give too much away here, but I’m once again impressed by how different, yet connected, every Fab Lab is. Fab Lab Danmark is a two part enterprise: one part mobile bus, one part house partially constructed out of seaweed.

Maks Bragt of Fab Lab Danmark.

Maks Bragt of Fab Lab Danmark.

At Fab Lab Nordvest in København we started with the basics. “What is a Fab Lab? What is possible at a Fab Lab?” At Fab Lab Danmark, Maks took us on a tour and explained the different tools and machines of a Fab Lab, how the projects are possible.

MadRim interviews kids at Fab Lab Nordvest.

MadRim interviews kids at Fab Lab Nordvest.

It just so happened that Maks was driving south in the Fab Lab bus for his birthday party. Only on our second day, and we agreed to hitch a ride. But we didn’t feel too guilty about it. How many times in your life are you making a documentary about Fab Labs and get to ride in a mobile Lab? The Danish country flew by as we relaxed our tired legs. Maks dropped us 35 km south of Næstved in Stensved, where we bought canned dinner. From there we hopped back on our bikes and headed west. We camped in the woods near Nyråd. The sun set belatedly, light lingering until well after 8PM. Madison and I pitched the tent. Stars poked out.

We hacked those woods, let me tell you. Madison uploaded photos from her camera to her computer, then turned on the hotspot on her phone, emailed me the photos, I connected to the internet on my tablet, and sent a very important email. Because of this beautiful and totally inefficient workflow, an article I wrote (and translated), complete with Madison’s pictures, is now published on MAKE online in English and German. We’ve received a surge in interest in our project since the advent of this article yesterday.

We woke up in the woods to an orchestra of crows, each one with its own garbled opinion. There’s no sleeping through that, no matter how exhausted you are. We woke up and packed up. We found a bakery in Nyråd, where the proprietress gifted us with buttered rolls and let us use the staff bathroom to brush our teeth.

On that note, something amazing about this experience now that it’s actually live is how downright excited people are for us. People want to know who we are, where we’re from, where we’re going, and why we’re doing this. And the response is exclusively positive. Madison and I got slightly lost when we headed east out of Maribo, and a young mother and her two daughters gallantly showed us the way back to our route, via the scenic path through an extensive park. Our last night in Denmark we parked at a smoky billiards bar in Rødby, where the bartender offered to “sponsor the bike trip” by not charging full price for our beers. A friendly former sailor named Marko offered his self-made shed as accommodation. It’s validating, and we’re grateful.

The first days of our bike tour have honestly not been as tough as we were expecting, and that’s because of humans like our København Couchsurfing hosts who woke up to wish us bon voyage, like Vagn who biked with us the first day, like those cops who were more interested in our journey than our transgression, and all the random characters we’ve met along the road. I can’t believe it’s only been five days. We still have three months and about 2650 km to go, and it already feels like we’ve been on a journey.

We crossed the border from Denmark to Germany via the Rødby/Puttgarden ferry, spent last night camped in a Lütjenburg parking lot, and now we’re in Kiel on the Baltic Sea. Tomorrow is our first day of rest, and then we’re on to Lübeck to visit Fab Lab Lübeck, the first German Fab Lab to appear in Self-Made, the story of creative communities. This is really happening.

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