Trip to the Roller Touring Freunde Hannover scooter club
Half a year ago already, Hannover's local scooter club published its plans for an interregional scooter meeting. Last February, I decided to give it a shot and sign up. As anyone who knows me expected, I started to prepare things weeks before due date. I tried a bag on the Elystar's seat, I studied maps of all kinds, I spelled out the weather forecasts from all available TV- and online stations, filled up fuel and oil, charged batteries of my phone, rasor, camera and handheld, almost forgot my wife's Birthday in the process, and finally woke up way too early on the 19th of June...Departure Day!
A special part of the trip: the 30km dike between Enkhuizen and Lelystad, right through the IJsselmeer. Sometimes, this road is closed due to stormy winds which definitely will blow an Elystar off the road and into the water easily. During my trip, the road could be used, though. Dozens of bugs have slammed my helmet, but even more interesting were the hundreds of sea birds I was fighting my way through. Luckily, I didn't hit any of them so I crossed the lake safely.
Wietmarschen is the home village of Hotel Heilemann, where I had booked a single room for the first and last night of the trip. The room turned out to be a comfortable, clean double room with TV and a nice bath room. I paid EUR 33 per night, including an excellent breakfast buffet and free use of the fitness facilities. The Elystar could safely and free be parked at the hotel's garage at the side of the building. The only downside of this hotel is, that it's situated in the middle of nowhere. Ideal for bicyclists, but not for scooter riders who would like to walk through town a bit.
This hotel was also the place where I was to meet Urs Werffeli, an Elystar rider from Mühlheim/Ruhr in Germany, about 160kms south of Wietmarschen. He read about my plans of going to Hannover and e-mailed me. We agreed to meet at this hotel and ride to Hannover together on Friday. "Whoever arrives last, buys the first beer", Urs said.
Around 8:30am, we left for Hannover. Due to some tailwind, we managed to ride the 231km (Lingen, Diepholz, Sulingen, Nienburg, Mellendorf, Burgwedel-Engensen) in only 4 hours and 50 minutes. It didn't take us long to realize, that Urs's Elystar took off quicker than mine, while my top speed was 5-10km/h faster. It didn't really slow us down, though, and in fact, it was a very pleasant ride. We took a 10 minutes break in Ankum (clean public toilet available at the bus stop), Freistadt (there was this Bratwurst-and French-Fries booth right next to the road, so we had our lunch there) and Schwarmstedt.
A little later we reached the small village of Engensen. Our stay for the next three days was the Gasthaus Voges, a nice but simple Bed & Breakfast. For EUR 26 a night, we each got a large room (they even installed a bed without foot shelf upon my request), more than decent breakfast, but had to share the bath room. Mr. and Mrs. Voges then emptied the shed in the back yard, so we could park our Elystars there.
One hour later, we were ready to go to the meeting area. It was 15:00pm now, and slowly, scooter riders from all over the northern part of Germany were coming in. By far the most of them were owners of big scooters, like the Burgmans 400 and 650, the Yamaha T-Max and the Piaggio X9-500. Plenty of 125cc (Suzuki, Peugeot, Yamaha, Kymco) scooters were present as well, and also some oldtimers like a couple of Helix and one Simson Schwalbe, an old 50cc scooter with a manual 4-gears box, parking light and foot brake from the former German Democratic Republic. These scooters are allowed 60km/h because the GDR rules still apply, while modern 50cc scooters are supposed to be restricted to 45km/h.
The rest of the day, it turned out that the organisers hadn't planned for anything special. They figured that scooter riders would be coming in, setting up their tents and then be ready for some beers and chatter. It wasn't quite what I was looking for at a three day scooter weekend, but Urs and I stayed around for a couple of hours, talking to people, discussing their scooters and add-ons, eating one more Bratwurst and then left for Engensen. After a short walk to get to know the village, and a quick beer at the Voges B&B, we called it a day.
Around 11:30am, little over 50 scooterists left the meeting area. The weather was fine again, although at first it looked like we might get a couple of showers. In convoy, at 50-60km/h we went to a big parking space in Hannover, where we were supposed to meet other scooterists and bikers for the demo ride. This trip to Hannover was a little over 30km and it took us 40 minutes to get there. When we got to the parking lot, about 50 other scooterists were already waiting for us. Also, policemen were ready to get us through the city safely.
Around 14:15pm, we went back to the camping area in small convoys and upon arrival at the camping area, soon the beer and music tents delivered their merchandise. This calm athmosphere was used by Jürgen Neumann, the club's president, around 17:00 to hold a speech and hand some prizes. There were cups for the oldest (73 yr.) and youngest (15 yr.) participants, for the scooters with the highest and lowest mileage and for those who had to travel furthest to get here (the riders from Monnickendam and Mühlheim!).
At 19:00pm, we went back to Engensen.
Being fed up with Bratwurst, we finally wanted to enjoy a decent meal. At a five minutes walking distance from our B&B we found a marvellous little local restaurant serving local specialties. Of course, they had a wide range of asparagus dishes. But I chose the 'Heidschnucken Braten', roasted heath sheep at EUR 12,20...a ridiculously low price compared to Amsterdam restaurants. Now, how do I report the smell and taste of this great dish at a "multimedia" website?
Riding in Germany is very different from riding in Holland on a 50cc scooter. In the Netherlands, such scooters are not allowed to use any larger road at all. Instead, scooterists are treated like bicyclists and are supposed to stay on the bicyclists paths parallel to the road. Also, In Holland, 50cc scooterists are limited to 30km/h in residential area, and only 40km/h outside town.
In Germany, 50cc scooters are generally considered motorbikes. Scooterists use the roads, even the "Bundesstrasse", and are only banned from the Highway (Autobahn) and Fast Traffic Roads (Kraftfahrstrasse). Most roads actually have a small track parallel to the street. At first, I thought that 50cc scooters had to ride there, since the sign says "frei" below a picture of a moped. Later I learned, that these tracks are only to be used by "mofa" riders. A "mofa" is a moped which is restricted to 25km/h. Real scooters have to use the road, which I did. In town, scooterists simply ride the middle of the road, and swim along with the rest of the traffic. On the countryside, you stay on the ride side of the road and to my surprise, car drivers will definitely pass you by a large margin. I haven't been cut off the road a single time. Anytime there's traffic coming from the other side, car drivers will calmly stay behind me until the road is free to pass safely, although they could easily have tried to squeeze by me at 20cm distance.
Arrival at Wietmarschen: 13:45pm, after exactly five hours. At Hotel Heilemann they were expecting me, allowed me to park the Elystar in the garage again, and gave me the same room. The rest of the day, I made some phone calls, walked all the way to the Wietmarschen village (a pilgrim's town) and back, and enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Heilemann's Gasthaus. This is where a dish with three different pieces of grilled meat with baked potatoes and tzaziki only costs EUR 8,20 and where you pay no more than EUR 2,30 for a glass of Irish Coffee.