Friday, 29 August 2014

Day 4: Brennersgrün to Nürnberg, and the art of fitting in.

Later realizing I had stashed a titanium spork in my stuff: being clever doesn't help if you forget how clever you are. 

Nobody knows where Brennersgrün is. I can't remember either. But my day started with an epic downhill. 30 km of blissful, foggy, early morning downhill, through winding roads, past tiny villages of just a handful of houses. Vistas despite the fog, overlooking the countryside of mixed farms and forest, ending in a quaint castle town called Kronach.

It rained while I sat in a cafe, charging my phone, nursing a cappuccino. It rained again while I sat in a restaurant eating a big schnitzel.

It was at this time I started wondering if I could finish the trip. My knees have been a problem for a long time, preventing me from doing long cycling trips, racing etc. It's one of those problems I've never found a real solution for, never have come to terms with or accepted, and frequently just pretend doesn't exist. In fact,  thinking I could do a trip like this was kind of unrealistic, but giving up on such trips alltogether seemed even less realistic.
What's the problem exactly?  I don't know,  but it has to do with tendons more than Cartilage, with muscles more than bones, is worse in my left than my right, and hurts like none other. Furthermore it's worse in the morning before I'm warm, and more bearable as the day goes on and my legs warm up. So despite the beauty of a 30km downhill, it wasn't the best for my knees.  And not forgetting of course that riding a fixed gear downhill is not passive.

Nonetheless, off we go! Mind over matter! Youthful enthusiasm over wisdom! And then this thing:

Take this out of context. This is dead guy nailed to a board. Now imagine riding through a countryside where every town has a fiberglass corpse hanging from a tree. Disturbing.

Nevertheless, beautiful. And it rained. The rain elegantly solved a simple dilemma I had at the start of the trip. My rain gear is heavy and large. I wasn't sure if was worth bringing. In the end, one day of light, refreshing rain was perfect to justify lugging it around. Thank you, god of rain.

I had a couchsurfing host available in Nürnburg. Due to my long lunch break and slow progress, I needed to hurry and wouldn't arrive until midnight. Nevertheless,  this sunset was just too perfect. I had to stop and do a quick photoshoot.

Sometimes, while cycling, you reach a zone. A zone where your legs are warm, you are strong, and riding fast is merely a decision, like stepping on the gas. You tell your legs go!  and you just take off. You can feel the power, it feels like it's coming from somewhere else. You can just ride really really fast.  I had 20 km to go and went into warp speed.

While packing for my trip, a spur of the moment decision led me to leave a couple articles of functional clothing behind and instead pack a pair of nice pants and button up shirt.*

Arriving in Nürnberg my host had already begun his Friday evening. I met him not at his home but a party around the corner.  I was invited inside. There I stood in a top floor apartment full of young professionals. I hadn't showered in two days and had just rode 130km in the rain. I was dripping wet, sweaty, exhausted, stank of sweat and wanted desperately to fit in.

My host was named Temi. He was at least 6 ft tall and from Nigeria. Temi graciously introduced me to his friends, and poured me a drink. The party was the perfect mix of people who all knew just enough about eachother to open up and talk. I liked it,  but felt awkward standing there in plastic pants and a puddle of my own rain. I then remembered the change of clothes, stashed safely at the bottom of my bag,  for just this type of situation. As I changed clothes quickly in the bathroom, and emerged a young professional like the others, a sense of bliss overcame me. A tall African guy danced wildly with a short British girl. I struck up a conversation with an Irish guy who had lived in Pennsylvania and together we flirted with the Spanish girls. I joined a Russian girl (who lived the past years in China), in an impromptu dance lesson from another American. We cut rug.

As we all left to continue at a nightclub, I told Temi; my friend,  I'm exhausted and need to sleep. Temi pressed his keys into my hand. My house is open, he said. Sleep in whichever bed you like. Eat anything you like. I call you when I come home,  you let me in,  Ok?


*shameless foreshadowing

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