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Bicycle Tour with three children in Sweden (1)

Karl Brodowsky, cycled 1997-07-04 to 1997-08-10, written in German 1998, translated to English 1998

Part 1

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Because we liked the previous family bicycle tour (1994) so much, we thought that it might be a good idea to try something like that again 1997. We were Heidrun 1, Ulrich 4, Bernhard 6, Karin (age not disclosed) and Karl (the author of this text). So we decided to buy new rolling stock for all of us, especially new bicycles for Karin and me and a trailer bike (Hoening add+bike) for Bernhard. Only the trailer was reused for Heidrun and Ulrich, but we knew that it was to small for three children and Bernhard was too small to keep up with us on his own bicycle. Christina did not need a seat, because she was born quite a time after the trip in Dec-ember.

Obviously a trip with so many participants requires quite a lot of luggage. So we decided to go on a trip in Sweden, where the maximum weight is about 60 metric tons, rather than 28 tons in Switzerland, where we happen to live now.

Because Ulrich still has no obligations in school it was possible to take him to my parents, who live in Kiel, a week in advance. So I took my bicycle and the trailer and some other stuff to Kiel on that trip. I don't remember much of the night, so I assume that we must have slept well in the night train which took us most of the way from Schaffhausen to Kiel. I had to return to Schaffhausen and we spent another regular school and working week, apart from the fact, that I went to work with most of the remaining luggage and we met at the train station. By the way we had to pick up Karins bicycle while changing trains in Singen, but there was enough time to do so. The bicycle was so new that it needed to be checked before such a long trip. We took the night train from Stuttgart to Hamburg again, and we definitely slept well after having spent the previous night with packing and finishing all the remaining work on Friday in little time.

In Kiel we tried to pack everything to our cycles. We had pairs of bags on the front and back of each bicycle and in addition on the back of Bernhard's trailer-bike. Obviously a lot of packages went on top of the bags and some luggage could even be stored in the trailer without sacrificing the comfort of Ulrich and Heidrun who were sitting in the trailer. The cycling bags where labeled with letters somehow representing the name of one of us. This gave us some light chance to find things again in the jungle of luggage. We tried using the last letter of our first names to achieve uniqueness, because Karin and Karl start out pretty similar. This no longer works out either with Heidrun and Karin, but there are enough letters around to resolve this somehow. When it was time to think of the ferry I found out that there was some luggage leftover, but we managed to take it somehow to the ferry (5 km within Kiel) by having a small rucksack on my shoulders and to fix it for good on board. Off course I did not want to carry a rucksack for the whole trip. The solution was to have quite a pile of bags on the back of my cycle, which required some effort for fixing it safely until we got used to it. So I had 50 kg of luggage, the weight of myself, of the bicycle and up to 70 kg for the trailer, having a total weight of 210 to 220 kg, depending on when the last shop had been passed. Karin added another 130 to 140 kg with her bike, luggage and the trailer bike and off course herself. I won't tell more about the parts that add up to this weight. At least Bernhard could help her quite a bit, at least when we had to go up on slopes. This worked out well for the first 2 or 3 meters of elevation. By the end of the trip Karin and Bernhard had become quite experienced on this and Karin could ask him to participate when she needed it.

The trip really started on an early Sunday morning around 8:00 from the port of Gothenburg. Luckily the people from the customs office did not worry too much about our luggage, especially not about the pieces that where stored in the bottom of the pile, which saved us a lot of time. We could easily cycle on highway N 45 that led out of the city, because Sunday morning was not a typical rush hour time. Because this was the beginning of the trip we chose a direction which should take us to a camp ground without having to go too long of a distance. Unfortunately this was not achieved by following highway N 45 much longer, which I consider the most convenient way of leaving the city, but on highway E 20 (old numbering: E 3) in the direction of Stockholm. It seems that there exist two national highways paralleling the motorway, one on each side of the valley. We took the northern one which has the advantage that it is a little bit difficult to find, in a sense an advantage over the southern route, which seems to be very difficult to find.

We took the first few breaks within Gothenburg on small meadows found near the highway. In the early afternoon we had left the city and the most densely populated suburban area behind us and found a very beautiful stretch in a small valley widening after some kilometers with a nice lake. This invited us for quite a long break until we finally continued to Lerum. This is a small village between Gothenburg and Alingsås with another lake and a beautiful camp ground that is obviously located with the lake. That was enough for this day and we even spent a day of rest in Lerum, which was nice because of the lake and convenient because it took its time to get used to the heavy cycles.

Having gone on Sunday to avoid traffic jam we had Monday off. Like many Swedish camp ground the one in Lerum included a very good play ground which became very popular with Heidrun who showed her older brothers how to climb. Some small trip for shopping and a longer trip with Bernhard's trailer bike attached to my bicycle was normal even for a "day off".

On the following Tuesday we had some intention to continue to the next camp ground. But somehow we no longer felt like following highway E 20 any further till Alingsås and Stockholm and so we left this valley across some hill that was not so easy for us, because we did not have the tools to dig a even way through. Somehow we reached highway N 40 from Gothenburg to Borås on the other side of the mountain and managed to find out the right direction.

With many curves, but a little bit flatter than the previous section, we arrived in Hindås. We had lunch in some nice Pizza-shop served by Arabs. This made it difficult to tell whether we had eaten Italian, Swedish or Arabic food. Maybe Esperanto? But it was good anyway and we got used to eating Arab-pizza once in a while on this trip. Somehow we found our way to the N 40 again and continued eastbound. This area was mostly woods, but some agriculture was included and in one place the highway formed quite an elaborate bridge just to cross a small creek. Maybe plans exist to extend this creek for carrying big ships.

Not long before Borås, actually within the community of Borås, which includes a large area around the actual city itself, we became very tired. In the village of Sandared we found a nice camp ground. Actually it was a sport field, but during the summer holiday they use it as a camp ground. Showers are available anyway, a stove and a washing machine had been added as well as the reception and the mini golf course, that has to be available on (almost?) every camp ground. The only disadvantage was the lake, which was a few kilometers away from the camp ground. As in Lerum we found out that we would fit into the tent, even though little Heidrun accompanied us now and even without her on the family bicycle tour 1994 the tent was not too big. We solved this problem partly by leaving most of the luggage on the bicycles overnight and filling the trailer with all the lose stuff flying around once we had settled somewhere. Only important stuff like laptops (guess how many we bothered to carry), cameras, etc. went into the tent.

On the next day we planned a small trip to Borås, which was supposed to have a nice zoo. This proved to be quite true. Near the entrance we got a small cart in which Heidrun could spend the hours between the stuff we had to take into the zoo, when she was too tired for walking herself. The whole zoo gave a lot of space to all the animals, at least much more than any other zoo I had seen before. Heidrun had a tendency to call any animal "Hund" (dog) or "Zer" (Pferd = horse). In one section it was possible to walk into the fenced area of the animals and to see them a little bit closer, unless they were hiding. Bernhard was a little bit disappointed, because we did not manage to see the whole zoo in one afternoon.

That was reason enough to spend another day in Sandared and the next day we had a look at some farm house museum and the rest of the zoo. We started to know the way from the camp ground to the city. We would have had a chance to play mini golf for free on the camp ground. That is something you have to pay for on most camp grounds, but we hardly saw any camp ground without mini golf. But the children were very tired in the evenings and we too, once we had managed to put them into bed. Ulrich and Heidrun could keep themselves fit by sleeping during the day time while sitting in the trailer. But Bernhard had to keep to the night times for sleeping. Anyway we found out in which order we would have to put the kids into the tent to sleep. I don't remember, but we will find out again how to do this on our next vacation.

On Friday we really wanted to make it a long way to the east. This took us on the highway from Sandared to Borås for the fifth time. After having made a small rest in the center of Borås we left town on the N 40 eastbound and finally made it out. Just a few kilometers after that we had a nice break on a small lawn some 100 meters from the highway without too much noise from the cars. On this day we had Friday afternoon traffic, which was quite much. Anyway the highway was dimensioned in such a way that cycling was conveniently possible because of the wide shoulders, even when a 60-ton truck was overtaking us while traffic was coming from the opposite direction. We covered the following kilometers quite fast for our standards, which was good since the next camp ground was quite our maximum distance from Sandared. Long detours or hilly sections of the road would have made it difficult or impossible to reach Ulricehamn. The last kilometers before Ulricehamn we had to go down into valley.

In Ulricehamn we had a camp ground that was quite close to the highway exit, so we were a little bit concerned about the noise. But somehow we did manage to sleep, because some trees and bushes on the ground kept most of the noise away. Again we had a very nice lake directly with the camp ground, enabling us to go swimming many times every day. So we took a day off again, which we spent in town, in the water and on some nice walks.

[continue with part 2]

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