21 May, 2007

Day 1: San Francisco to Cologne, via Richmond, VA

"Lordy. It has been a battle, a trip through hell, died and reborn."

Since we were flying over the east coast it was a great time to visit my parents.

I arrive at my parental sanctuary-resort from Atlanta feeling a bit off. During diner I got full quickly and retired early. That night I was up sick till morning.

We could not delay our departure for any reasonable amount of money.
After another restless night, still unable to eat or drink more than a few sips, I embarked onto a small aircraft for a shuttle to NJ. Our plane sat on the tarmac without water for five painful hours before taking off. In New Jersey it was raining and we had missed our departure; to be rescheduled tomorrow.

Over the next 10 hours at the airport hotel I started to feel human again. The next day, while waiting for our flight in the terminal, Heather encouraged me to eat while we waited to board. I refused and let her use my food vouchers.

After flying through the night we caught our first glimpse of the Rhine in the morning light. The anticipation of assembling the bikes and finding our hotel had me feeling better. Heather, on the other hand, was having increasing stomach pains; much the same as I had. This was going to be ugly.

I have not eaten and barely drank in two and a half days and now Heather is looking worse every 20 minutes. Standing in line at customs we drew a few glances. I was conserving energy by taking a knee in line, Heather was making audible moans while clutching her stomach, both of us were pale and sweaty.

We had to exchange currency, assemble the bikes, dispose of the cardboard boxes, and then ride to the "Bett und Bike" hotel.

assembling our bikes in the airport

Heather held together amazingly well, forced to stay with our luggage as I ran through the terminals asking where to dispose of large cardboard boxes and exchange money. When I could not find a place to dispose of the boxes, we decided to walk outside to look for a dumpster with our bikes.

We got 10ft (9m) outside the revolving doors when Heather got sick.
Food poisoning? Nasty stomach virus? We'll never know.

After getting slightly lost, discovering we had no local maps and didn't know how to work the rented British cell-phone, we found the hotel thanks to a friendly local.

It was beautiful and the TV had bike racing on two channels. Totally exhausted, I wept in bed as Heather worked through her sickness.

After an hour we went to buy nourishment in the form of vegetable broth & potato chips. We forced ourselves to stay awake until 6:30pm local time by walking the neighborhood in a half-dead zombie-daze. 

At 6:29pm we collapsed in an epic manner of emotional and physical magnitude.