Winners!

June 11 – Frankfurt to Radebeul

Game day. Today was it. The second leg of our cross country rail journey and it was on.

After our deliberations about where-to-next, we’re making our way to Dresden. We thought we might head for Prague, but the logistics of getting there were a bit too much of a headache, so Dresden it is. We’re actually returning to our original plan, that we abandoned when we changed course to continue riding the Danube and then going on down to Lake Constance and then onto the Rhine. Before that change of course, we’d planned to ride to Prague, then to Dresden, Berlin and onto Denmark. We knew when we changed course and headed south, we’d have to get on  a train and leap frog at some point, to make it to Denmark and then over to The Netherlands to catch our ferry to the UK when our Schengen visa ran out, so we’ve just done it now rather than later. So…our journey continued today, to get back on to the previous, original, before-the-many-changes, plan of riding from Dresden to Copenhagen. We just had to get to Dresden.

We rocked up to the ticket counter at the train station at 7:30 this morning to buy our tickets, to be told we couldn’t get the bikes on any of the direct trains. Instead, our option was the regional trains again, which would involve eight hours of travel and three changes of train. After the stairs, missed trains, packed carriages and general difficulties of yesterday, the thought of another full day of navigating trains, stations and stairs was enough to curl our toenails. But…we had a destination, we were going to get there, so…GAME ON!

Round One: Frankfurt to Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe

After leaving Frankfurt station yesterday, approaching it again today brought on the Game Day nerves. We’d had to navigate steep escalators at Frankfurt station and today I wouldn’t have the kind Marcia to take my bike for me. We walked into the station. Where’s platform 15? There’s the sign for it, let’s go…there it is…no, it can’t be…it is…it’s on this level! The same level as the street! We don’t have to go up or down anything, just walk straight onto the platform!  Onto the platform we went, straight onto the train and we were set for the trip to Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe. We had won Round One! WINNER! Raphael Nadal fist pump…Usain Bolt arms…We were through to the second round. 

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Thrilled to be on another train

Round Two: Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe to Halle

We got the bikes off the train at Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe and headed for platform 1. Following the signs…there’s the sign for Platform 1 and it’s…down…below…and there they are…the steps, the long steep flight of steps. Oh, no, I have to try and get the bike down there without it running away from me and…hang on a minute…what’s that just there? Just a bit further along…on the left…I think that’s a…RAMP! Yay team! We don’t have to bump down all those stairs, we can walk the bikes down a long gentle ramp! Down we went, as easy as could be. The train pulled in, we walked the bikes on and got them in place, found a seat and we were on our way. We’d done it! No steps, made the train, walked straight on, found a space. WINNER! Lleyton Hewitt chainsaw…soccer player aeroplane arms…We were through to the third round!

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Elevenses

Round Three: Halle to Leipzig

The train pulled in to Halle. We knew we had a fairly short connection and our itinerary said there was a five minute walk to get from our arrival platform to our departure platform. The train pulled into the station, we were ready, we didn’t know what we’d have to get up or down to the next platform, but off we go! Wheeling the bikes onto the platform and there…right in front of us…less than five minutes away…I mean, just there…is our next platform! All we have to do is walk the bikes down a little ramp, up another little ramp and straight onto the train! We had made it. We didn’t have to go up or down anything, the train was sitting there waiting for us. We could walk the bikes straight on, put them in a space, take a seat ourselves and we were on our way to Leipzig. That easy! This run of good fortune had to come to an end pretty soon, but for now, we’ll take the WIN! Mats Wilander hand to the forehead…do the moonwalk…do the robot…We were through to the final round. This is it. This is for the championship. This is the final run to the end. We’re on the final bend. We’re in the home straight. Here we go!

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Watching the scenery go by

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Fourth and Final Round: Leipzig to Radebeul

The train pulled into Leipzig. This was the big test. This was leaving the toughest play until the end. We had to get from Platform 1 to Platform 21 with a 13 minute connection time and the itinerary said it was a 9 minute walk to get there. “We’re not going to make that one,” we’d said more than once today, preparing ourselves for another delay. We couldn’t make that connection if we had to get from one end of the station to the other and if we had to haul the bikes up and down stairs. The train pulled in…we wheeled the bikes off…looking for the sign to Platform 21. There it is…an arrow pointing…up. Here we go…I see escalators…noooooo! Wait! There…down there…along the platform…an elevator! Power walk along the platform and we make it to the elevator and there’s no long line of people waiting for it! The two people in front of us go up, the elevator comes down, up we go and we power walk to Platform 21. We get there! Before the train even arrives! 

We stand and wait. There are quite a few other people with bikes. This could be a squeeze. The train pulls in, the crowd of people surge for the door, we start to make our way to the bike carriage and then…”This way,” calls Steve. He’d seen a second train pull in behind the other one! They’ve got two trains on this run, so we head for the less crowded one, walk the bikes onto the bike compartment, find a space and rest them in place against the wall and we’re on! We’re on our way to the final destination.

We speed along the track. The train stops and people get on…people with bikes…more people with bikes. OK, our run of good luck is starting to look wobbly now. The people get on and lean their bikes against other bikes and the compartment is filling up. The bikes are now leaning against each other eight deep and ours were the first ones on, meaning they’re now buried beneath a stack of wheels and handle bars. The train is going to Dresden. We’re staying just out of Dresden and we have to get off three stops before the end. We have to somehow get the bikes out from under that cycle stack, before our stop, or we aren’t going to get off in time.

We make our move. I move my bike forward a little. Steve starts moving bikes off ours and restacking them. Two people have left their bikes right in the space to get to the door and I can’t get out. We start to move their bikes and then they see us and come back and start to help get their bikes out of the way. We move and edge and move and stack and move and twist and finally get our bikes free from the pile. Now we can stand and wait for our stop and we’ll be able to get off. Then we stop at another station and another cyclist gets on and he can’t fit his bike in the compartment, so he leans it…right across the doorway. Now we really can’t get out. Our station is next, I’m watching the screen to tell me which door will open. We still can’t get out. The man with the bike blocking the doorway sees me and comes to move his bike when it’s our time to get off. Our station arrives, the man moves his bike, I press the button to open the door and…we’re out! We’re on the platform! Now to get out of the station. Look! It’s not possible! Surely not. Right there next to the flight of steps is another…elevator! We take the elevator down off the platform and another one up onto the street and we’re out. We did it! We got on and off all the trains…on time…making every connection…without having to go up and down any stairs or escalators! Cathy Freeman flag lap of honour…Andre Agassi kiss-wave to the crowd…GAME, SET AND MATCH! We had won the Tournament of the Trains! Not only that, when we arrived at our final destination, we were hit with a blast of hot air! Like walking into a sauna. Heat! There’s supposed to be thunderstorms coming tomorrow, but it’s going to be 31C, so we’ve found some heat as well. Storms or not, we’ll take that! 

We were up against it. Yesterday had thrown things at us and we’d had setbacks. We weren’t confident at the start of today, that we could pull off all those trains, all those stations and make it to our destination. We can’t believe we pulled it off. We can’t believe we had such a run of luck. Unheard of in our history of train travel with loaded bikes. 

We are not the best at train travel with bikes. We don’t like doing it and we generally come unstuck, but we’ll take today’s win. We’ll take the Tournament of Trains trophy and put it on the shelf. In fact, after today, it’s goin’ straight to the pool room! 

If you’d like to see us in today’s Tournament of the Trains, a short video is below.

TWO DAY’S STATS

Distance ridden: 7.4 km

Time in the saddle: 33 minutes

Number of train stations visited: 10

Number of flights of stairs or escalators conquered: 5

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