What the…kale?

Anyone who rides with me knows for sure one thing I do not like. Kale, I joke is a naughty four lettered word, and I type it as *ale.

With my recent diagnosis, and knowing I have some hospital visits ahead for remediation works, I cannot afford to get covid. Apart from being higher risk, it would bump me from my scheduled date.

Tony is also being proactive in this regard as he is my greatest risk given he is out and about more. To mitigate one impact, we are now getting groceries delivered.

I ordered a range of fruit and vegetables including bokchoy. Coles in their wisdom has determined kale is a substitute for bok choy!!

What the kale? No and never. The best way to cook kale is with coconut oil as it makes it easier to scrape into the bin!

I have made kale chips before but right now I do not need additional oil and salt!

What to do with it…??

Even Khaleesi won’t eat it, running around the room tossing it around.

The beta blockers are kicking in big time. I put my heart monitor on yesterday for some gentle exercise and was shocked when it said 48! I have fairly low HR but that is the lowest number I’ve ever seen for me!

I purchased a Fitbit watch last night so I can wear it walking. My Garmin arm band is a pain, synched to my mobile. I need my reading glasses to check it whilst I walk. I am sure to trip over something.

The beta blockers are making me tired too and I am glad I have Tony here to walk with me. Only short walks but great for the head. This is our beach yesterday afternoon. Beautiful day. Today is bleak and dull but still nice on the beach.

I’ve pottered around. I have a jigsaw on the go. It’s quite hard actually so will be challenging. I’ve been to Rome, and you can see the Palatine Gardens in the jigsaw. Tony has not been there, so I am adding it to my goal list.

I was given money from my in-laws for my 60th. I purchased three jigsaw puzzles. I enjoy doing them as they stop me worrying and over thinking. Thank you Maureen and Geoffrey.

My eldest son Joshua proposed to his now wife Kimberley in the olive grove in the Palatine Gardens.

We headed out for brunch yesterday at our local Berry Patch. Out the back gate, over the railway line, through the scrub. All of maybe 200 metres and we are there.

This was our meal for Tony’s birthday on Thursday night. Wanting to avoid indoor settings, we sat outside, rugged up.

I had granola with fruit, Tony eggs and bacon.

I made sushi for lunch today, and also dehydrated 6 organic Granny Smith apples. I made Greek yoghurt yesterday. Tony takes it to work with fruit.

Smoked salmon, avocado and cucumber sushi
Fantastic yoghurt, easy to make, sugar free. Tony takes an tub, whereas I have two spoonfuls daily.
Really tasty. We both enjoy tarter tasting apples dehydrated

Finally, I am now thinking that I may have had a pre warning…something I did not recognise at the time.

Hannah and Roey visited a few weeks ago to celebrate my 60 th with me. We went for a bush walk in the Dial Range up Mt Gnomon. It starts with 1 km steep uphill. I found it hard. I stopped numerous times huffing and puffing and told Tony the climb was harder than I remembered. Yes it was a steep hill but I needed a lot more rest than before. I do think that my heart was not getting enough blood now.

So sometimes the clues might be there but we do not recognise them, and put such clues down to other things…like I’m not climbing fit….or my lungs do not like this cooler damp air….or they are younger and faster…when in fact it may have been ….my heart is not getting enough blood pumping around!

Be alert, without being paranoid!

There have been over 2900 views of the first four blogs. Over 1600 for the very first one, Taking life for granted. Incredible support and I think that for many it has hit home the need to be more proactive in understanding their own health.

Thankyou for supporting me. 💕 xxx

Waiting by the telephone…

It’s been an informative few days and I have had so many pm’s asking for an update.

Tuesday afternoon we drove to Launceston to meet the cardiologist who has replaced Dr Z ( whom I consulted back in March and reluctantly signed the CT angiogram form).

The Charles Climic is located in the former Launceston General Hospital, up a hill with minimal parking. The hairdresser in the building seems to have more allocated parking spots.

I feel sorry for the incapacitated trying to get a spot for their car.

Once inside it is all very clinically pleasant. We were not kept waiting long and we met Dr Pal, the man whom I hope is to be my hero.

He has an impeccable educational background at Oxford where he has won lots of awards for a variety of academia and research. He finished his training at Flinders University hospital.

I immediately warm to him as he speaks in a sincere, kind, warm and empathetic manner. He tells me what he needs me to know with simple words, models and sketches. He points out the concerning aspects of the scan.

The three major arteries all have disease. One is severely calcified and stenosis (blockage) one is moderate to severe and the third moderate. Crap crap crap.

They cannot remain like that as I’ll likely suffer a catastrophic event…I always thought catastrophic events were earthquakes, floods, fires but with your heart it means heart attack or cardiac arrest.

Dr Pal explains that the scans are one dimensional and he needs to look inside my arteries via the catheters used in an angiogram.

He explains that the reason I have advanced coronary artery disease and no apparent symptoms is due to the level of my fitness. A less fit person would have had angina pain, but my heart compensated by making stronger heart muscle and learning to do more with less available blood to the heart. I have a higher exercise threshold tolerance.

He said that is why sometimes you hear of fit sports people dropping dead with heart issues. It is only upon autopsy that the underlying conditions are then revealed.

That is scary. So the ‘ordinary’ person with less fitness gets warning signs, but fitter people do not necessarily. Think about that fit people…..

The next steps involve patience on my behalf as I want to get cracking on getting better. Cracking probably not a great choice of word if it ends up open heart surgery.

I am booked in for an angiogram but his first available spot (he operates one day per week in Launceston) is Fri Aug 5th….but….he has put me onto his wait list for the first cancellation. I would likely find out the day before.

It is Thursday now, the phone has not rung…..🥲

Secondly, he has tentatively booked me into his next operating list in Hobart in August at the Hobart Private.

When he does the first angiogram there are three possibilities it seems.

The first is that he can place stents and I can start recovery.

The second is a look and see to check the percent of blockages and then schedule me into his Hobart session where he would drill out the crap from the arteries and then place stents.

The third possibility is a look and see to check the percent of blockages and then refer me to Dr Ash Handikar, cardiac surgeon in Hobart, for open heart surgery (by passes). That could be a 2-4 week wait upon referral as the only cardiac theatre is at the Royal Hobart and more catastrophic cases can bump yours.

I’m nervous about needing wait my turn as I want to live.

I did ask about walking and has said I can a few times per day for 20-30 minutes but my heart rate must stay under 90 bpm.

He has put me on the usual cocktail of drugs. Doubled the statins as I’ve tolerated the lower dose from March. Despite not having high blood pressure or heart rate, a beta blocker to depress both and aspirin to thin the blood. My pharmacist son Luke explained to me why.

In case he gets a cancellation I have already completed the pre angiogram bloods and paperwork for admission into Calvary.

The journey has started and now it is a waiting game.

I need to chill….

I am very thankful for all the support I have received. So many messages and athletes asking me about the test as they want to push their doctor to refer them to check.

That is great and my aim to increase awareness for all my fit friends. This disease is so prevalent and hides within the fit. If you have a family history of cardiac disease please start the discussions.

I do feel let down in many ways by my cardiologist of over 10 years as all he ever did was the stress test and ecg. If he looked in the file notes the family history was there, but even he judged me by my fitness.

Empower yourself with knowledge, ask the questions and maybe avoid being in the position I find myself.

Big hugs to Sue M for her regular phone calls. We have reminisced about our fun times together and maybe that’s a blog in itself. She told me she loved me, as did Pauline B. I love them back 💕

I’ve had conversations with each of the kids, and I need their loving support and encouragement.

My rock, that’s Tony and today is his 61st birthday. A quiet night at home as I cannot risk Covid. That could stuff things right up. He is having to be careful as he is the one out and about. We are planning to head over to our Berry Patch and sit outside for a meal on Saturday, rugged up!

The beta blockers do help anxiety. They make you tireder but I’m not sleeping any better. I am practising deep breathing as I lay awake thinking….

With the slow down of metabolism with the beta blockers I’ve reduced food portions as weight gain is common. So many potential side effects.

Maybe the phone will ring tomorrow. 🙏

Next steps…

After being told to get off my bike and not ride, at all, that freaked me. I asked could I walk? They said, ‘if it feels safe’. Seriously, what does that mean? I felt ‘safe’ riding 100 km. I felt safe riding 3000 km ( well except that day on the French National truck highway). Remember I have had zero symptoms. Zero.

Shaun P and Paul the zwifting cardiologist both told me to walk. For your mind if nothing else. This has been reinforced by Sue Mc and Di O, both wonderful nurses.

So twice a day I am now walking with Tony and Khaleesi. Not long walks as Khaleesi needs frequent but shorter works due to her bilateral hip dysplasia diagnosis. Bit slower to not get my heart rate up.

I would usually walk her at lunchtime when working from home, but I’m not currently as she is a very strong dog that I need to exert effort into at times to obey. That I am sure raises my blood pressure, so for now, we all go together with the second walk when Tony gets home from work.

The walkway adjacent to our home
Our beach, lower tide
Our beach
Pile of logs from floods in 2011 still remain above the high tide mark. Higher tide, so we walk down along the pebbles.

I am getting up at 4.45 am still. All three of us are awake anyhow. We walk early. I am amazed how many wallaby there are in our area grazing in peoples gardens. Khaleesi sees most and her prey or maybe play instinct is strong and Tony has to reign her in.

Back home and I make my new world coffee….cappuccino using almond milk. Ordinarily I would have a double shot black at this hour before I started riding but now I am ‘treating’ myself.

Almond milk is taking some getting used to but I am enjoying it more each day. Thankyou to all the almond farmers who get up early to fastidiously milk their almond herd.

I chose this cup deliberately this am,. Bright and cheery and a gift from my long departed sister in law Cheryl who succumbed to lung cancer 14 years ago. I have kept these, as I am very sentimental.

I started working at 6 am yesterday. My managers have been very kind and generous with their flexibility. I have patches of super productivity then I lapse…and need to refocus.

I have multiple grant programs on the go and they all need tweaking and there is a bureaucratic process that must be followed, so nothing happens as quickly as you want. So plenty to occupy me.

I found this at the weekend as I sorted through old files. Very cute. I left it on my little table next to my recliner. Nice to remind myself that my kids love me. I love them so much.

I turned 60 a few weeks back. It was nice to be with Ben as it was his birthday too. We enjoyed brunch together courtesy of my daughter in law Sharon. Then we wandered around Basel, a beautiful city.

I remind myself of the day here as I look at the beautiful present Ben gave me. It makes me remember our wonderful cycling trip as those three mountains are the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau that featured heavily in my posts from Wilderswil.

The knife in front he gave me for Mothers Day, it is a panorama cheese knife with a cut out section in the shape of numerous Swiss peaks, including those three.

It is a goal to get back there I have decided.

The view from our bedroom of the same three.

I have been overwhelmed by the support in this journey. Many of you have told me stories re yourself or a loved one. A few have told me sad stories too but overall the positive stories are in the majority.

I have been accepted into a support group page for cardiac athletes in rehab and it is truly incredible what many of these are doing and achieving.

My girlfriend Sue has had a few long conversations with me and we have reminisced about our adventures together. Laughed lots. She has made me promise to ring her and I will today.

Pauline B has messaged regularly and made me promise I will stick around.

Di O has given me sage advice along with Shaun P, both experienced nurses.

Then there are literally hundreds of other comments of support on both Facebook, messenger, mobile and my blog page. A huge thankyou.

This is the stats on my web page. Very telling that the support and interest and perhaps curiosity and care factor is high.

The Deputy Secretary of our Department rang me last night. It humanises bureaucracy when you have higher level executives contact you and offer whatever support there is. He said you are part of the family….whatever you need it’s there.

I did one of those silly Facebook quizzes that was on Julie B Facebook page today. This is what it came up with. I know that they are bullshit, as accurate as the horoscope or weather report but still…

But….I am not facing this alone. Many are concerned and worry if it could happen to them too. No symptoms.

I don’t think I have ever been accused of sugar coating anything lol, bluntness and directness is me, and has led to some misunderstanding me. I hate fake people and have a huge bullshit radar. I tend to be very efficient and organised, and that intimidates some but that says more about them too.

Yes and the last line is true. But it tends to take me getting burned a few times as I do forgive and give second chances. I believe in second chances. Third and fourth I start to take the hint and then look after me.

Today is the day I see the cardiologist to find out when the next step happens. I want it to be sooner than later as I cannot avoid it and want to do it before I have a significant event, that would either kill me or leave me with damaged heart muscle. Optimal recovery if I can go into as healthy as I am ( bar the diseased arteries)

Tony did not know what to buy me for my 60th. I’ll admit that deep down I wanted to make something of this 60th as I just had this niggling doubt in me. Based on what? I cannot explain it.

Anyhow I have been flitting around undecided. I was thinking of a ring and been getting prices etc, but I think I have decided on this. Made in Denmark, available in Hobart and it’s named….life.

Since 2018 I have worn a black band I bought at the Vatican. I’ll add this to my strength.

Time goes by slowly

Saturday July 2, 12.10 am

I can’t sleep. I shiver and shake in bed. I get up. It’s only midnight and my body says do a number two…at midnight! Whatever

I get up. I turn the heating up. I wrap a blanket around me. I make a hot cup of T2 peppermint tea.

I read all the lovely messages of hope and encouragement. Others share their stories. Some I’d forgotten about. Others are new stories.

I get a message saying membership declined for a cardiac rehab page. I had not applied so I answer the questions. Declined. Figure it’s because I’ve not been cleared to resume sport.

Sport….that activity that helps me sleep.

Will jigsaws cut it? I get one out but just can’t concentrate. I did most of my jigsaws last year. It sits opened on the dining table.

Tour de France has started but I do need figure sleep out as my body needs it and so must my heart.

I have a good heart in the non physical sense. A life time of volunteering in various ways. Mainly sports related. Currently I am also on a hospital advisory committee. One of two inaugural members still there from over six years ago. I volunteer leads for cyclists each week, around 7 hours worth as lead and/or backup.

I think about my first volunteering. It was with my dad. City of Launceston Lions Club did Meals on Wheels. Helping Dad on his roster was the only thing we really did together. He worked hard six days a week with his business. Sunday was his only day off.

I’d dish out the soup. He used to let me leave a small amount at the bottom of the thermos after all homes visited. That was for me.

I liked that time together.

It was clearly directly and very clearly indicated that my genetic disposition to heart disease was very strong and likely given the direct, close blood relatives who have a significant history.

He said you can control many factors that contribute – such as lifestyle choices (alcohol, smoking, diet, exercise) by what you do, and with the assistance of medications. The one thing you cannot change is genetic disposition. Bummer.

Saturday 5.10 am

Up and awake, still cannot sleep but I did get a few patches here and there. I practised deep breathing in and out. But my heart just seems to be banging hard. I feel like a ticking time bomb.

I’ve finished reading heaps of personal messages and responses to the blog. I’m teary and thankful to those kind people.

I am redoing my will. We had some changes we’ve talked about so typing it up. Might seem negative, but I want these changes in place. In case.

What does a 60 year old cardiac patient look like with minimal sleep under stress? That’s me. Not over weight and pretty fit and healthy most would presume.

My fitness is a facade that fooled specialists for years it seems. Here is a stressed looking Sharron, pre shower. I do not think I look like what many would typify as a standard cardiac patient. My physique fooled doctors.

Hoping bright colours cheers me 😊

Sunday am

I went for a walk yesterday afternoon with Tony and Khaleesi dog. Shaun P told me to! A nursing friend from Launceston, he has promised to boss me around. I’m happy for that. This was reinforced by a cardiologist who rang me who,said a walk should be fine.

Through Zwift I know Paul who is a cardiologist at the Royal in Hobart. My good friend Sue M had rung me despite her covid, and arranged it. She said she’d trust him with her life.

Great to talk to him and he explained more to me, and discussed his thoughts as to where the angio should be done. Agreeing with Sue his preference is Hobart and my cardiologist does have a list there (not sure how often). Reason is, Hobart has the only cardio thoracic unit in the state so if something goes amiss, I need be there vs Launceston.

The emergency air transfer service via helicopter struggling currently with one of the retrieval specialists and other staff out with Covid.

He told me if I needed more than three stents then it would be a look and see and no more and scheduled for open heart surgery. That is only done at the Royal. He described it as really nice surgery… the surgeons perspective versus the patient I guess. Normal day at the office for them vs life changing for the patient.

So the walk. Cold day. Only 10 c but clear sky and sunny. It felt good to have fresh sea air…..the heart goes tick, tick, tick….it was high tide so no beach to walk on but Khaleesi likes to sniff around in the rocks and logs. I found some shells for the garden. I filled up an unused doggy poo bag and carry them back.

I’ve tried to answer all the private messages sent to me via email and pm. So many and quite a few with their own cardiac story to tell. Many of the messages are very moving and I’ve shed many tears reading. The support is amazing. Thx kindly to all xxx

It is clear to me that many others have their own misdiagnosed stories. Fitness is a facade for many medical professionals it seems. My cardiologist was so reluctant to request this test and I feel he signed it to more get me out of his office…but I’m glad he did despite his reluctance. I wonder if he saw the results before he finished up on Friday?

We need to take more ownership of our health! Tony and I have decided once I am through this journey and on the road to recovery, he will push for this test.

I will push the issue with our local Federal member as it is ridiculous Medicare will only rebate with exhibited chest pain. I’ve had no symptoms yet the test revealed advanced coronary artery disease.

My daughter Hannah tagged me in this post on Instagram. I’m finishing this blog post with it. It’s 7.13 am, Sunday 3 July, 2022.

Taking life for granted

I’m starting up a new topic here on my blog as it seems I cannot ride for a while.

My family history with heart disease is significant. My maternal grand father died from cardiac issues aged 49.

My father had a five way bypass aged 51, my mother a three way bypass aged about 53.

I turned 60 a few weeks ago.

About 15 years ago calcifications were noted on my left coronary artery. An incidental finding from a lung imaging test. I saw an interventional cardiologist who said ‘you look too healthy, keep cholesterol low and goodbye”.

For 14 years I had tests every two years with a Launceston cardiologist. The stress test I treated as a personal challenge. I would ask what I scored last time, ensure I went further, and would be told that I was the fittest patient he’d had in six months.

I decided to change cardiologists. Good move.

After pushing to have a cardiac angiogram, where they use a contrasting dye, I have received news that has shocked me.

I have advanced coronary artery disease. They are in bad shape.

The radiologist was a gem. He rang me tonight and talked to me for over 30 minutes. He told me he knew me. He is a zwifter and rode in an event I was leading last week.

He has met with my cardiologist and they reviewed my results together this afternoon . There is a plan it seems.

Before I got this news, I hopped onto my bike and started peddling. The cardiologists rooms rang and told me to get off the bike. I cannot raise my heart rate.

This news stresses my heart. Exercise is my self treatment for anxiety.

Right now my health is number one. I need to nail this!!

I intend to diarise my journey. Not for sympathy but to encourage others to get this test, and to watch my rehab as encouragement.

Tony and I purchased our grave plot only two months ago. I do not intend to use it yet, and hope that the planned treatment is swift and successful.

The crazy part about this test is that there is no Medicare rebate unless you have chest pain. I have had no chest pain. I have no shortness of breathe. Yet the test has shown results that left untreated will kill me before I am ready to check out.

My motivation for this test was another zwifter, Andrew S. A fit and healthy guy who was heading to Scandinavia to ride, but collapsed whilst talking to his wife in the kitchen. She saved him with cpr and a few days later he had open heart surgery. Two months later he is back zwifting, and I note today rode 50 km.

He told me after his cardiac arrest, get this test given my family history.

I did and now I face major treatment fairly shortly that will hopefully save me before I have a significant cardiac event.

I am scared. I am motivated too as I have a long bucket list.

Get you heart checked out!

Love and hugs


What’s in the bag?

I have often been asked, what’s in my bags. Yes we travel as minimally as possible. When you have to cart your gear 3000 km you look critically at everything.

Certainly there are non negotiable items clothing wise, first aid, medicines, tools and spare bike parts. You need casual clothes for evenings. You need cycling clothes for rain, cold and warm conditions.

Here are our two bikes just as we arrived back at my sons place in Switzerland, 3000 km later.

The set up with the two bikes is similar, bar the two small front panniers on Tony’s bike. In addition, his bike is bigger and therefore he has a larger rear post bag

Here I am leaving accomodation ready to pack the bike. Three bags in hand. You need to be able to cart your gear to and from your bike easily,

I am carrying my front handle bar bag, my rear tube saddle bag plus a stuff bag with all the odds and ends that have a specific home on the bike.

Storage choices. You have seen two bags above. I also have two bags on my top tube. The smaller upright one plus the hanging lower and longer one.

So let’s see what I have all spread out on the floor.

In more detail. The rear saddle bag is basically everything I hope I do not need during the day riding. In the bag you would find….long leg bib and brace for cold weather riding, a thermal long sleeve top, a second short leg bib and brace kit, spare short sleeve jersey, a pair woollen cycling socks wet weather, yak wool beanie and snood, a casual dress, a long leg casual outfit, yak wool casual top, nightie, spare underwear and medicines and toiletries (except ventolin), tens machine ( for our backs, could be considered non essential but given our back history very handy as you can ride and use it simultaneously).

Strapped to the top of the bag are my casual sandals, neoprene over booties and my gilet (indicating that it was hot when this photo was taken).

The front bag has stuff that I may need during the day. It has our first aid kit, a teaspoon (very handy at times), safety pins ( useful if zips break), a nail file (also very handy at times for all things not involving nails), long sleeve warm jacket, arm warmers, passports, vaccination certificates, travel insurance info, food, rear derailleur hangers (never leave home without spares),biro, my iPad, masks, small torch, shopping bag, hair bands and small hairbrush, bike lock, tyre pressure gauge, spare fully charged etap battery, drink tablets….

On top is a map pocket which I use for sunscreen, hand sanitiser and tissues.

The top tube bag has my purse (debit card, credit card emergency, cash- in this case euro and Swiss francs), lip balm and ventolin.

I have exercise induced asthma and part of my asthma management is ventolin regularly during the day as I ride. I also take Symbicort twice daily for asthma. Well managed my asthma is rarely problematic. If I get a cold etc, it can be problematic.

I also need to carry an epilepsy drug having complex partial seizures at various intervals since I was 20 (but only diagnosed by a neurologist 5 years ago).

This is Wags, my sons dog, very keen to check my gear out.

The hanging longer top tube bag opens both sides. The larger area contains my rain coat and rain cap.

The smaller pocket contains a battery pack (to charge the Hammerhead gps bike computer if the battery gets low), and my stuff bag (used to transport loose items to and from our accomodation). Spare food is sometimes stored there too.

I also have an internal tube storage area under a bidon holder. It is really nifty and we stored 3 x rat test kits there. I intend to find long skinny bags for our first aid kit for the future to place in the tube.

The extra bags on Tony’s bike has his spare tubes (my wheels are tubeless), plus our two lightweight down jackets ( they stuff down very small), some tools and spare parts (brake pads, derailleur hangers etc).

We choose to travel light. Most touring cyclists we see travel with more gear and bags. Many also carry tents and sleeping bags.

This works for us. We do intend to replace our rear seat post bags with a newer Tailfin setup for our next trip. Not cheap ($1400-$1500 for the two bikes) but the benefit is the weight is not hanging off the seat post being mounted to the rear axle.

I think that about covers it. This setup and gear replicates what we carried for 35 days in central and Western Europe in 2019 and we’ve not made any major changes for this trip (26 days riding).

We get to the luggage collection carousels post trip and are quite bemused by the number of suitcases many travel with. Yes, we keep wearing the same gear, no it does it bother us, yes we launder cycling kits daily, and casual clothes regularly.

Itchy feet

What do you do after an epic bike tour? You get back in your bike of course, even for a shorter 48 km or so.

Itchy feet, waiting for the rain to ease and we went off on an exploratory ride to check out both sides of the Rhine and its villages.

Our route, Germany to the left, Switzerland to the right.
Borrowed photo showing Bad Sackingen from the Swiss side of the Rhine River up from the long wooden bridge.

Bad Sackingen was coming to life. A market was setting up, looking like lots of fresh produce.

Adjacent to the river is Gallasturm dating from 1343.

The river looks calm as the clouds start to lift.

We call this guy Lewis, after a character in Suits.

Laufenburg was our first bigger village, and we were on the German side at this point. On the other side of the bridge lies Laufenburg Switzerland.

The same name is not by accident as the two were the one town. In the early 19th century, Napoleon divided the town, with a bridge linking the two.

Below is our picture and following is one from 1896. Much remains the same.

2022, the German side
1896 German and Swiss sides
The bridge from the German side, Switzerland just metres away
The Swiss side
Both sides
As we left the German Laufenburg, looking back into town

We continued riding along the German side of the Rhine

We crossed over onto a largish island in the middle of the Rhine that you can see on our route map below. The trail is all dirt and our bikes are now filthy. We have mud up along our bottoms as it flicks up off the rear wheel.

Lots of fish in the Rhine including a very large 3 metre variety.

Leaving the island and returning to Switzerland we enter the Swiss Laufenburg and find a place to grab a coffee and some breakfast. Lovely spot and we hope to sneak a return visit in on Monday, the same day we fly out to Australia late in the evening.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe, smile on 😊

Finished our blockie

I always have a tendency to feel somewhat melancholy on the last day of a cycle tour. You out so much time and effort into organising it (research, mapping, coordinating accomodation, blogs).

Then there is the actual having to ride it, the physical and mental challenge. Setting out at aged 60 (very close) and 61 to ride 3000 km is something that not many have the desire or capability to achieve.

You get an array of comments, and for those who take the time to write positive comments via the blog page or fb we are appreciative. The support and encouragement of your words is acknowledged and not taken for granted.

There are many who ‘like’ the blog without actually reading it (easy to tell….as the number of likes on two fb pages versus actual number of reads is significantly different).

But to those who do reach out, our gratitude and thanks.

So after our breakfast we left Luzern during peak hour traffic, and once clear of the city found ourselves in the burbs.

Shortly thereafter we were back riding in agricultural fields of wheat, corn, potatoes and poppies. Looking back there were the mountains again. Lovely vista.

Rothenburg was a pretty town we rode through.

Then we passed Lake Sempach.

The final mountain views, until next time

We saw this Trek sign in a village. Being a Trek Ambassador in Australia, I thought I’d grab this photo for my Instagram account, where all things Trek are tagged.

We had no time pressures today. We only needed to ride about 75 km to finish, and we had told my son Ben we would arrive after 3 pm, trying to fit in with his work meetings.

We planned to sit in Aarau for a while. The weather was lovely, and we had a fruit smoothie each after wandering around the town. Note the paintings under the eaves.

A very pretty town, that is the capital of the northern Swiss canton of Aargau. It is located on the Aare River, and also the southern foot of the Jura Mountains as we were about to discover.

We ended up moving on sooner than planned as we realised we had a lumpsch to get over, and we both preferred warmer legs. It was nearly 4 km long at an average of 6.8% with pinches of around 11-12%.

It was warm climbing and when we got to,the top we discovered it had a name. Staffelegg Pass at 621 m altitude is one of the lowest Jura mountain passes and is surrounded by Wasserflue and Gisiflie, popular hikes.

I saw these signs though and laughed and twisted a bit, how I was thinking.

There was a bus shelter at the top of the climb that we sat in as it had just started to spit with rain. Checking the Swiss rain radar site, we could see the band moving towards Basel and knew we were likely to get more rain.

So we kept moving, stopping at a CoOp in Frick to grab an iced coffee and sushi.

About 8 km later, we made it back to Ben’s including his 14.4% pinch up his road. Accomodation is always at the top of a climb😳

So here we are. Done and dusted bar some short rides we will do in the area before our departure home on Monday night.

I could not do this without my partner in crime, Tony. He looks after all my mechanical ‘stuff’, takes the photos, and engages in lively navigational debate at times.

Doing a trip such as this, you see each other tested fully both physically and mentally. We survived each other and we both gain a greater appreciation and respect for each other as we know what each other goes through.

Time to celebrate some say. Think we’ve only had one ever finishing a tour, and that was LeJog where a group of partners got to John O’Groats ahead of us and cheered us all on, giving us champagne.

Oh actually, same tour company at the ends of London to Venice greeted us with champagne too.

This time, we shared this! Sandra gave it to us last night. 💕

Someone was pleased to see us!

There will be a few more blog posts yet as we will do some small rides whilst Ben sleeps weather permitting. Plus I have promised others to cover a few topics including…..what’s in the bags so stay tuned.

Could this be my new number one ride ever?

We are staying in a hotel with a Peruvian theme….restaurant and staff. I would not recommend it, poor quality mattress that has one of those rubber sheets like you put in your children’s bed when first toilet training at night, that makes you sweat.

Breakfast was a mess, made worse by a power failure in the dining room and an incredible influx of a tourist group. Food handling techniques were poor to non existent, no hand sanitiser in sight.

We ended up grabbing our breakfast and relocating to an adjacent room that had no one in it.

The rain radar contradicted the weather forecast that said it was going to rain. I could not see that the rain would hit the area, so we took off to ride down to the far end of Lake Luzern to Fluelen 51 km away, planning to return by the ferry.

We grabbed our bikes and made our way out of Luzern through the peak hour traffic. We had some 20 km of more suburbian like riding to do through a series of built up areas, but some nice vistas from the lake promenades.

Looking back to Luzern the clouds are still very low, mountains high in the clouds.
Very still and peaceful
So peaceful, the swan sleeps
Adam and Eve are very still too, well we presumed it was them as the girl does hold an apple.

We cut across a couple of sections of land turning away from the lake.

Returning to the lake and various sculptures and water features.

Just chilling.

The skies were lifting, and we could gradually see more

Blue sky trying to make an appearance
We liked how the boat ‘just’ fitted into the boat house.

The further down the lake we went, the better the scenery got.

The lake weaves around, with varying headlands jutting out, on both sides, creating narrow passages looking reminiscent of fjords. We are heading towards those snow capped mountains.

When you head up hill from Brunnen there is a sign saying the road ahead is dangerous and that it is recommended you catch the train or ferry. I have never seen such a sign before and we were like ‘eek’.

However very quickly we realised that this was not the case and that cyclists and walkers were very safely accommodated.

The last section of the lake, riding from Brunnen to Fluelen is the best section of riding scenery and infrastructure wise.

Getting to those mountains was an engineering masterpiece. We rode through multiple tunnels. Some were newer two lane tunnels, with a raised broad footpath for bikes and walkers. Others were older tunnels adjacent to newer ones for cars. The older tunnels were just for cycles and walkers. We must have ridden through nearly one km worth all up.

In other places the sides were open with a cycle track to the side.

What a view
Cycling through one of the tunnels where you can see two car lanes, and the raised pathway for bikes and walkers.

The closer we got to Fluelen the more amazing the scenery became.

An older rock road and tunnel ahead now used for cyclists and walkers.
Just beautiful

As we rode the last section of lake, we could see the ferry criss crossing the lake to various villages. We arrived at the ferry terminal 10 minutes before it was due to arrive and leave.The ferry departed hourly and the return trip took 3 hours.

As it was approaching 1 pm we decided to catch this ferry rather than explore further. The weather was lovely now, sun shining so it promised to be a great trip back. It cost a total of 112 Swiss francs (about Aud $185) including 16 Swiss francs for the bikes.

We found ourselves a great outdoor seat at the rear of the ferry looking backwards, so that we could savour the view of the mountains for as long as we could.

Church in Fleulen
Look closely at this photo and you can see the open cut road and where the tunnels are that we rode through.
Another section we had ridden where the road goes across various gorges and crevices

The closer we got to Luzern the clouds came rolling in, like some great performance on stage, the curtains were closing. It was a magnificent performance and one that we would long remember.

This ride rates. If you are a cyclist and heading this way we can recommend the route. A shorter option would be to get the ferry to Vitznau and ride from there.

The day held another highlight, as we had dinner with friends Sandra and Rolf, friends I met in the Maldives in 1985. I have had a few catch ups in recent years, but not since 2019 due to not being able to travel.

We had a lovely meal at a local Swiss restaurant and I do so value our friendship lasting so many years.

The photo is a little blurry but the quality of the friendship is not. 💕

Well another day has gone, and tomorrow we ride back to where we started 3.5 weeks ago.

Thank you for reading, stay safe, smile on 😊

The hills are alive….

…with the sound of music..? It looks like that in the photo below. You think maybe Julie Andrew’s is about to start singing?

I really like the next two photos. Bidding the three mountains farewell with the promise of a half decent looking day.

Alas the rain radar told a different story. We had watched it and knew without doubt that the band of rain was too big to miss Switzerland and we were bang smack in the middle. We had the morning though!

I took one last look up the valley and then turned my back. Maybe I will see these three again. It had been 35 years since my first visit and let’s hope a lot less until my next.

We headed straight into Interlaken as we needed to cross the river and ride down the ‘other’ lake side towards Brienz. We knew from our return bike ride yesterday that it was a good road and we would start with a couple of shorter climbs.

We stopped a few times on our way to Brienz as the lake was magical.

We turned left at Brienz, and again there were Swiss Airforce planes busy with their low altitude flights. Yesterday we had seen and heard many flyovers. I have since learned that the main airbase for the Swiss airforce is just a few km away at Meirengen.

There is a single runway and a series of large caverns in the adjacent mountain where the aircraft and ammunition is stored. You can drive the plane right though and out another cavern opening.

Then we climbed. The graph below shows the nasty one. As far as climbs go, on a loaded bike, we both felt this was tough. Not as long as say climbing to Les Gets in France last week, but steeper and pinchier. There were extended periods of 9-13% plus gradient.

There was no verge at all. There were many sections of no side barrier and long drop offs. I moved further out into the lane in those sections as one mistake by me, or the lightest tap by a car and life was over.

The vehicles were in abundance and would have difficulty overtaking due to the oncoming traffic.

It’s a hard place to stop when pushing 9-13% plus as you need to be able to twist your shoes out of their cleats and then re cleat to start again on a steeper slope. That is hard to do and keep your balance. Well it is for me.

On some left bends there was a little excess on the right hand side so I would move over there and jump off and wait. They were all very patient and highlights the huge difference riding here vs Australia. Not one car horn today.

Tony took a few photos climbing.

The first road climb was below, we joined a T junction a little higher where we merged with vehicles coming out of a tunnel who were also going up Brunig Pass
Waterfall in the far valley. I could hear a helicopter the whole climb from somewhere down there.
Tony waiting in one of those left bend, right hand bays
Still climbing

We often stop for a breather at the top of climbs and Brunig Pass had a cafe restaurant. So we stopped and had a hot chocolate (do it yourself version, as we were presented with a mug of warm milk and a sachet) and I ordered ‘something’ to eat. My German comprehension is far less than my French and she said croissant, and something else that sounded like mousse. I ordered the latter.

Mistake. Awful. It was like a five day old dried out sausage roll, with thick dry pastry that was inedible filled with stuff that almost looked like a sausage roll but sweeter. I got a spoon and scraped it out to eat leaving the thick pastry that you could use as a weapon.

Also turns out the cafe is 10 metres ascent short of the top of climb so our legs did protest after a break. Brunig Pass boasts a bus and train station and a few other eating places. Then it was into the descent, which included a few areas of roadworks.

We stopped here to look at the view of this lake, Lungerersee. The town you can see is Lungern.it was super picturesque.

Down in Lungern we stopped at a small supermarket and grabbed a bottle of Perrier to refill our bidons.

Church in Lungern
Lungerersee from the Luzern end

The weather is closing in and the blue sky has gone. The next lake we ride past is Sarnersee.

Lake Luzern (Lucerne) twists a lot. Our approach is from the south. 10 km out we don our rain jackets as there are a few spits. Can we get there without getting wet? Looking less likely as it is raining over Mt Pilatus.

Earlier view Lake Luzern

5 km to go, it rained. Just a steady downpour. We went direct to our accomodation despite being 1.45 hours too early. The young guy said we could come back in one hour….and we discussed the bike storage. That took 15 minutes as he conferred with his grumpy boss.

The boss said they could go outside in the rain. I looked at the spot and said no reminding him that when I made the booking I was advised they could store our bikes safely and securely. Back to the grumpy boss. Voices raised and the grumpy one came out and eye balled me, saying something…..but not one bit of warmth in his eyes or voice.

The young lad took me down one level in the lift where they store all kinds of stuff. Perfect storage! So now only 45 minutes to kill in the drizzle.

Around the corner we found a cafe and ordered some lunch. We ate slowly. We ordered more hot drinks. Voila, 45 minutes had passed.

Stored the bikes, showered and washed our clothes. Hanging the clothes out windows today was doomed to failure. This is our laundry set up here.

The fan oscillates but we needed extra height to get the clothes hanging from the shower rail hence it is sitting on the toilet. We turned the knobs on the wall heater but it took ages to get a tad of heat.

The rain had eased so we headed off to wander around the city. Some lovely buildings, statues and fountains.

The old bridge first erected in the 14th century, similar in age and length to the one on Bad Sackingen I posted early on when we first arrived.

We popped into a few bike stores whilst wandering as we needed some chain lube. In this store was an ex- pat from the USA who has lived in Switzerland over 20 years. He was impressed we had cycled Brunig Pass loaded, and told us in his younger years he used to skateboard down it 😳 I was thinking of those open drops…..

He had this steel bike custom made locally and had it treated to look old and rusty much to the disappointment of the manufacturer. He has since had a motor added so he now rides it 20 km to and from work.

Another day has gone. A shorter one at just under 80 km. We have two nights here too, as a second day of free choice. We have mapped out a ride to the far end of the lake to Fluelin, and a ferry ride back.

We need to check ferry schedules and the weather forecast is not brilliant. We do have options of stopping earlier at other ferry locations.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe, smile on 😊