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Some technical things

6 August 2018

Garmin and Open Source Maps

Once again we’re using a Garmin GPS. While it inevitably de-skills us for conventional navigation it seems indispensable. Without it we’d need to carry a ream of large scale topographic maps and spend hours navigating in unpleasant parts of cities. We’d also get lost more often.

I’ve baulked at the cost of Garmin maps and while we have a European Garmin map it didn’t include Russia so we’re trying an open source map from (‘Fiets’ means bicycle in Dutch.)

The openfiets maps are free but ask for a donation. I was able to select a rectangle covering our intended route including Russia and to download a custom map.

The map has shown a few glitches. For instance it doesn’t like to create a route using Scandinavian ferries and eschews a few perfectly good cycling roads.Garmin maps have similar problems.

Good on Openfiets maps I say.

Mobile phone roaming in Europe

Mobile phone roaming in Europe (EU) is a dream now.

Being tight-arsed, we bought pre-paid Ortel SIMs in Berlin with a small data quota and no calls and that’s been really convenient. We need to turn roaming ON and apart from a welcome SMS on crossing a national border all is well. We can receive phones calls and SMSs but need to us Skype or WhatsApp for outgoing comms.

So, the promise of easy roaming in the EU has been delivered. Things will be different in Russia.

Who knows what will happen in the UK post Brexit. We may need to send food parcels. Our second month top up will cost a little more unless we get new SIMs (and new numbers). We’re not THAT tight!

Touchnote postcards

Some of our contacts are too young or too old for the internet so I’ve sent them postcards using Touchnote. (Google it.)

You can compile your card by uploading a photo or two, write a message and add an address. For about $3 Touchnote then prints the card and posts it anywhere in the world.

I haven’t seen one yet but the quality is reported to be good and the price seems fair. It’s nice to be able to use your own photos and good if you have illegible handwriting. You also don’t need to find stamps or a letter box.

Secure bicycle wheel skewers

I’ve always thought quick release bicycle wheels a bad idea outside racing circles. Why make it easy for people to steal your wheels? So, after Rosalie had to buy some fancy new wheels and I found myself in a stylish, hipster bike shop on Copenhagen, I lashed out and bought two sets of secure skewers.

To steal our wheels now you need to come armed with an unusual 5-sided Allen key. No-one’s stolen our wheels yet.

Slow boat to Denmark

17 July 2018

We hurried to the port to catch the 11 o’clock ferry to Gedser in Denmark but discovered they’re working to a ‘special plan’ this week so no 11 o’clock sailing and we need to wait until 1pm. On the bright side, we have some time to brush up our Danish.

DSCN1196Seaman’s Mission, Rostock

We’re sitting at a shady table outside Rostock Seaman’s Mission. Port workers and polizei are having their lunch. The canteen has a pretty impressive spread of high quality, real food on offer including fresh chive and parley garnishes, etc. We have our handlebar bags surreptitiously stuffed with delicacies from breakfast so we’ll leave that food for the locals.

Speaking of breakfast, we had a more-than-hearty frühstück at the hotel. We eschewed the steak tartare but indulged heavily on most other offerings to the sound of Pat Benatar singing Love is a Battlefield. It is reassuring to know that the German commitment to a proper breakfast and 80s pop music is undiminished.

Help yourself breakfast is a boon to touring cyclists. You NEVER regret those cheese rolls at morning tea. It’s best to prepare the trail food before eating while your motivation is piqued.