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Tag 0 – Von Salzburg nach Wien
… and an adventure it was! We are now piloting the beautiful, brand spanking new TWIKE TW1009. When Wolfgang and Christina gave it to us last night, it had only 22km on the clock. Now it is nearly midnight again and we have added about 270km to that. After packing everything we thought we needed into TW1009 this morning, we left the Oekotel in Salzburg around 9:45am, got an Autobahn-Vignette from a petrol station, and went straight onto the West-Autobahn towards Vienna.
The nose – ready to go!
From earlier travels I knew that an ideal speed for a TWIKE on a motorway is about 70-75km/h. At that speed lorry drivers realise early enough that you are slower, can overtake quickly enough and don’t get stuck behind you. After about 2 hours of sometimes horrifically steep passages (for a motorway) and 126km, we arrived at our first charging stop in Linz. The charging infrastructure here in Austria seems to be great. Beforehand I had printed out a list of stations that we might want to use, so we just typed the most convenient one into the satnav and found it straight away. It stood right outside an electricity company, had four plugs, and I had no idea how to use it. So I went in to ask… twice… easy once you know it: bank card in, bank card out, choose plug, plug in, press start, done (and no money taken from the card either).
Explaining the TWIKE
Two hours and ten minutes later we were fully charged, had explained the TWIKE to most of the company’s employees, had a walk, bought drinks and a map of Austria, and had discovered that we might just make it to the meeting in Eichgraben in one go. So off we went, back onto the West-Autobahn. And, of course, only 30km before the point where we had planned to leave the motorway we were stopped by the friendly Austrian police who wanted to see our paperwork. After they had convinced themselves that we were allowed to do what we were doing, they wished us a good journey and we carried on to our chosen exit near St. Pölten. Now on normal roads, we finally started pedalling to get used to it for the coming days. The plan is to pedal all 1500km of the tour. With only 15km left to go to the meeting we realised that we MIGHT not have enough charge to make the very last bit. We therefore stopped at a small roadside cafe and ordered a couple of drinks and electricity for ten minutes. After recharging ourselves and TW1009 we carried on and arrived at the Hotel in Eichgraben after 140km (since Linz) at exactly 17:15. After checking in, we went straight to the meeting where we had only missed some of the welcoming speeches.
We are quite pleased with ourselves that we managed Day 0 so well and are very much looking forward to tomorrow, when the WAVE 2013 starts in earnest. We have got start number 1, so we’ll be the very first vehicle to start this year’s WAVE!!!
Day 1 – Eichgraben to Eisenstadt
The first day is nearly over. Everything worked quite well although we had a few minor teething problems. First we hadn’t quite understood how the start procedure was supposed to work and being the very first starter, we had nobody we could copy. The moderator shoved the microphone into my face so I had to improvise a few words about the TWIKE being the only real sports car in the field of starters, so I might have missed the exact starting time by a few seconds. I think I was waiting for some kind of flag or so. Hm…. hope we got away without penalty points. At the same time Angela was fighting with the satnav which kept trying to send us back to the hotel, so we already got lost after only 200 metres! But we got this sorted out quickly and were on our way.. We kept pedalling all the time and after a short while it felt completely normal to move the legs as soon as the TWIKE was moving. The regular question “Could you stop pedalling a second? I want to shift gears.” was quickly abbreviated to “SHIFT!” and gear changes became routine.
We had a short stopover in an industrial estate in Vienna, where the moderator announced me as “Dr. Schröder from Switzerland”! After that we carried on to Baden, where we stopped for a light lunch and a visit to the Casino. The management of the Casino was invited to rate the design of our vehicles as the first competition of the WAVE. The results were announced during our tour of the Casino and the winner was the “Lone Viking” Robort, although the moderator thought his name was “Corbin Sparrow”! We came third and are well pleased with this. When we left, the moderator told the audience that “Captain Sparrow” was now leaving in the TWIKE. MODERATORS!!! YARR, WHY IS THE RUM GONE?
Chilling out in Baden with Gordon and Leora from Team Green Motor Sport
We are now parked under a huge wind mill within an enormous wind park, the only sounds you can hear are the birds and the wind in the rye fields. The modern mills are nearly noiseless. When we drive, Angela is in charge of the satnav and I am slowly getting used to her instructions. They usually go along the lines: “In 800m the road will go in a kind of weavy what-have-you-not sort of way…”
Group foto under the wind mill
Start number one
We will spend the night in Eisenstadt, about 40km away, where we are invited to the local wine festival. So I think we better get going now.
Day 2 – Eisenstadt to Aibl
What a day this was! We are now in the loveliest Hotel you can imagine, the Romantikhof Kiefer in Eibiswald. It’s the perfect ending for a fantastic day of travel with lots of sun, 270km of pedalling, super-nice people, and lots of questions and explanations about the TWIKE, the WAVE, and electric vehicles in general.
We started off early, around half past seven, because the first stage was around 125km with allocated charging time at Güssing only from 10 to 12am. We arrived there at 10:08, so nearly got the full charge we needed to complete the next stages. Unfortunately we couldn’t charge ourselves though because the only food available was goulasch, no vegetarian option for us. So an apple and a muesli bar had to be enough.
Driving in the sun
The Sammy kept behind us to save energy and because their satnav wasn’t working
At 12 sharp we left our nice hosts at Güssing and drove to Gleisdorf where today’s competition was held: THE SLALOM! Our starting time was 13:30 exactly(!) and we arrived at the place at 13:20. So I jumped out of the TWIKE and jogged along the parcours with the judges to make sure I get it right, while Angela was unloding the TWIKE to make it as lightweight as possible. No practice rounds were allowed and I was the first one to go. I think I did OK with a time of 57.47 seconds. The second one to go was Team 2 with a Tesla and of course they were about 13 seconds faster, but since they missed one cone they got 20 penalty seconds. But in the end we had no chance against the high powered cars and it was another Tesla that won this competition. On the other hand there were lots of other teams that did worse than I, so I am looking forward to reading the end result on the WAVE website. Also we finally got something to eat: sweet bread rolls with jam inside.
After all teams had done their run, fotos and films had been taken, and I had done a round with the pilot of the model heli-cam, we all drove to Graz in a sort of convoy (that got pulled apart at the long inclines along the road, of course). Graz seems to be a lovely city of which we didn’t see very much. We were way too tired to take part in the city tour after having pedalled all day.
Charging halt in Graz
The nose is here as well!
At twenty past five and after another incomplete charge, we left Graz for Deutschlandsberg. We had a very arm welcome there from the local gymnastics club. They had prepared speeches, presents, stage presentations, and a nice dinner (including vegetarian option) which we nearly missed because we had to answer so many questions.
Q&A in Deutschlandsberg
Afterwards we carried on to the village of Aibl where we were greeted by drinks, electricity, and questions again. After a while we managed to sneak away to our nice hotel and finish our last incomplete charge of the day whilst we had our well-deserved showers.
Day 3 – Aibl to Weissensee
WOW! Today was the first proper mountain stage, before going to the max with the Großglockner tomorrow. We left our nice hosts in Aibl at 9:46 sharp and instantly started climbing towards the Soboth. This gave us a nice taster of what is about to come. It went constantly uphill for 25km, sometimes it was so steep that our speed dropped to 20km/h and I had to switch the peda drive to first gear. I suppose everybody knows that we don’t have to pedal at all. The TWIKE motor is strong enough, pedalling doesn’t increase speed or acceleration at all, it only increases the range. But I can tell you that if the mountain calls we have to answer with everything we got! We are not going to be beaten by a mere hill! After 25km we reached the pass at a height of 1349m (4425ft), completely soaked and with the range dropped to 60km.
On top of the Soboth
Downhill from Soboth
We had a short break, took some pictures, and then raced down the other side of the mointain – what a fantastic feeling after all the hard work and at the end our range had doubled to 120km thanks to regenerative braking. Therefore we didn’t have to recharge the TWIKE in Völkermarkt, but stopped there nevertheless to recharge ourselves with ice cream.
The next proper charging stop was in St. Veit, where we arrived a bit too late for the introduction to the so-called “Fuchspalast”, a hotel designed by the Austrian painter Ernst Fuchs, a very colourful building. At least we still got served our (very nice) lunch.
After St. Veit we had a stop over in Feistritz an der Drau, where we got a small snack and excellent ice cold elderflower cordial which we really enjoyed. For the evening and night we then carried on to Weissensee. We had to drive about 63 km, mostly in the flat but the last few km were another challenge: several parts with a 15% incline! I suppose that was another good test for tomorrow, we learned a lot about which speed to set the cruise control to at different steepnesses to give us the best efficiency.
Weissensee is a lake up in the mountains with lots of little villages around it, full of hotels and other touristy attractions… but actually VERY nice, as the view from our hotel balcony shows:
The view from our hotel balcony
The evening in the town hall was very interesting. We had good food, accompanied by two boys playing accordeon (I don’t generally like this kind of music, but they were really good!), and were treated to a talk about a circumnavigation of the globe with a solar ship. The charging situation though was a bit of a mess, the fuses kept blowing, so we decided to charge at the hotel, as did about half of the other teams as well, to make sure we had a full charge for the long climb to the Großglockner.
The Accordeon Boys
Day 4 – Weissensee to Neukirchen (via Großglockner)
Today was THE DAY… The best day so far! And we did it: WE TWIKED THE GROSSGLOCKNER!!!
I can’t describe how that feels. Within only 20 or 30km we covered an altitude diffence of 1400 metres and we pedalled our TW1009 ALL THE WAY UP.
The first stage was from Weissensee to Heiligenblut, so we first had to go down the steep hill from last night so at the bottom of that my range gauge showed a rather optimistic 494km. This was slowly reduced to more realistic values until we reached the mountain road to Heiligenblut and the Großglockner. We had to climb about 700m over only a few kilometers. We quickly settled into a steady pace of about 25 to 30km/h, pedalling in second gear. Of course we were overtaken frequently, but we got lots of thumbs-up, got photographed and filmed, and we had a fantastic time! Our charging stop Heiligenblut turned out to be a pretty little village, a bit over-run by tourism because of the Großglockner:
Charging in Heiligenblut
At about 1pm we decided to do a little detour of 7km one way (and 400m up) to the Emperor Franz Josef Glacier, although we were not quite sure about our range and the time it would take. I am SO glad that we did this: the view of the glacier was absolutely incredible. Pictures don’t do it justice, but I tried a panorama shot with Autostich and having seen the real thing, it brings back the feeling of the place straight away:
The Emperor Franz Josef Glacier
After taking part in the group photo, we left for the real challenge: we went back the 7km (and 400m down) to start the climb to the Großglockner Mountain Pass. Driving and pedalling were fully automatic now and we could concentrate on the incredible scenery around us. Every few metres and every hairpin bend the view changed and we completely forgot about the pain in our legs. It was one smooth ride to the top and the feeling of achievement when we got to the Hochtor at 2505m was really great:
At the Hochtor on 2505m
The Hochtor at the Großglockner
The temperature was 7.5 degrees, there was snow everywhere, in the tunnel there were frozen water falls on the walls, but we were happy and didn’t feel at all cold. On the other side of the tunnel was another car park with a great view over the mountain tops around us.
Frozen waterfalls in the Hochtor tunnel
Then came the loooong way down, with lots of regenerative braking. I think I only touched the mechanical brakes five times, the rest of the surplus energy all went back into the batteries. A few times I thought something might be wrong with the TWIKE because a horrible smell wafted through the cabin. But it turned out that this was the smell of the burnt brakes of other cars and motorbikes! What a waste of energy…
The looong way down
On the Großglockner Road
We went on to Neukirchen, where we will spend the night in the sports hotel Wildkogel and share a room with Gordon and Leora of Team Green Motor Sport. It has been a fantastic day, which we will never forget!
Day 5 – Neukirchen to La Punt
After the highlight of the Großglockner yesterday, today seemed a bit boring. Well actually compared to going around London on the M25 it was still one of the best drives in the world, but it was a long day of just driving and charging through a very nice (but not as breath taking) landscape.
It started off with some confusion because apparently there had been a mud slide over night at the first mountain we had to cross, but it turned out that our road was the one that was still open. It was the same calibre as our first mountain pass two days ago (only two days???), so nothing to worry about anymore. The drive down to Zell am Ziller (short charging stop) was quite spectacular but then on the way to Insbruck the Ziller Valley opened up more and more and we were getting a bit bored. Also the area is famous tourist hot spot and therefore nothing we would normally choose to visit.
The closer we got to Innsbruck, the more trafic and industry there was, and since Innsbruck as just another charging stop for us, we didn’t get much to see of the town either. The world class hotel Hilton was not able to provide us with a vegetarian meal, so we had something nice at a small restaurant next to the charging vehicles on the Landhausplatz.
The next charging stop was Landeck, where we stayed for a short while and had a nice ice cream in the sun. We then carried ontowards the Swiss border and the landscape became more interesting again… as was the weather: it was getting darker anddarker over the mountain tops and just after crossing the border it started tipping it down! So… a quick stop, close the side windows of the roof, jump back in, and off we go again in the thunder storm. Which of course is over within the next minute and we get boiled by the re-emerging sun inside the closed TWIKE.
Since it was only a few kilometres to Sent, our first stop in Switzerland, we dicided to carry on with the windows shut, not knowing that these last kilometres were VERY steep. After this we were extremely thankful for the drinks that we were offeres in this beautiful village.
TW1009 in Sent
La Punt is our stop for the night. We were offered a fantastic meal (loads of vegetarian options) and lots of free drinks, but the highlight is our accomodation: a proper nuclear fallout shelter!!! Not everybody was happy about his choice, but we think it will definitely be an experience and a very safe night for sure.
The entrance to our shelter for the night
One of the three bedrooms
Day 6 – La Punt to Arosa
After having had the safest night in history, today is going to be another great day. We just had breakfast, a short briefing and now we are queuing up at the starting line to go up the Albula Pass to Lenzerheide, one of the most spectacular drives in the Alps. There will be lots of tunnels, hair pin bends, fantastic views, steep inclines… the lot! The start is going to be any minute now, so more later.
Right… we have arrived in the clouds, also called Blatter’s Bellavista Hotel Arosa. We have a room with a view as promised, only the view is of the inside of a cloud. We can now answer the question from a few ays ago: Yes!!! No difference from being UNDER the cloud.
The Albula Pass would have been a great experience if the weather would have been better. But it wasn’t, so we spent a lot of time sitting in our vehicles, parking up in lines and squares, getting out, doing the WAVE in the rain, getting back in, etc, all to get the necessary press pictures taken. When we finally arrived in Lenzerheide for the lunch stop, it had stopped raining and the sun was checking out what was going on with us. Lunch for the vehicles and meat eaters, bread and water (erm, lemonade) for us.
Queueing in the fog
TW1009 in the queue
Then on the way to Arosa it started raining again. Ho hum, now we’re in the dry in a very nice four star hotel. We are clean and warm and I expect there to be an internet connection so I can upload my last three blogs.
Nice hotel! Don’t you think so too?
See you soon, Andreas
Day 7 – Arosa to Romanshorn
Day 7! Has it already been a week? It feels like we barely started!
We are currently parked at the harbour promenade in Rorschach at the Bodensee. Wednesday last week we went past here on the other side of the lake on our way to Salzburg.
When we woke up this morning, the weather was much nicer. The sun was illuminating the mountain tops in the distance and the woods were giving birth to lots of baby clouds. They formed between the trees and then slowly rose into the sky. As long as they stay small they are nice to look at. Later we experienced again, what happens when they turn into teenagers and clump together to plot mischief. But actually most of the time we could escape them and drive in the warm and dry.
Baby clouds seen from our hotel room window
Babybclouds taking off
Today we had completely different challenges to master. It all started off with another attempt at doing the efficiency test. We left the hotel in Arosa fully charged at a quarter to eight, going down the steep mountain road to Chur, and then got onto the motorway to arrive in Trübbach after 60km at 9:15 at the latest. That actually meant, we had to really give it some… no time to dawdle. In Chur we were already a bit late, so we raced down the motorway at a constant 85km/h and just made it in time. Nevertheless, our consumption was only 5.5Ah of the 22.3 we have. That’s the energy equivalent of a small glass of petrol!
Then everybody got allocated a slot of two minutes in which they had to drive to a certain school in Trübbach, give a talk of exactly one minute to convince the students that their vehicle is the best, and drive off to the next school (in Sevelen) to do the same again…. and again in Gams. Then we had lunch in Sennwald, where the nice people of BRUSA had prepared a meal made from pasta, potatoes, cheese, roasted onions, and apple sauce: great!
Convincing the pupils and teenager clouds on the horizon
After lunch we had to do the “convince-the-students-game” another three times in Oberriet, Eichberg, and Heerbrug, before we finally got to our first and only charging stop here in Rorschach.
Charging stop in Rorschach
Just before we reached Rorschach, we had the shock of our lives. We were going down a fast road towards the town at about 65km/h when someone in a silver family car decided to pull out right in front of us without checking for traffic. I just managed to pull off a proper double-lane-change maneuvre and avoided the oncoming lorry as well, thanks to the excellent new Heidenau tyres (Martin, you were right… they are good!).
Now we are waiting for dinner right on the shore of the beautiful Bodensee, the vehicles are charging, spectators are having a good look and ask lots of questions, the weather is dry and warm but cloudy, and for once I am on time with my blog. Let’s hope I’ll find a connection later to do the upload. We are going to spend the night in a youth hostel in Romanshorn, just up the coastal road from here.
Blogging in Rorschach
Day 8 – Romanshorn to Baden
Hello everybody, this is Andreas of Team TWIKE. Today was a day when we had to make a hard decision. Actually once we realised that the decision had to be made, the outcome was clear: we had to pull out of all parts of the competition today!
We are still part of the WAVE 2013, we still try to drive all routes, but we will not push ourselves to win anything. Before you start worrying or ask yourselves what is going on, here in short what happened today. It actually started yesterday when we discovered that there was no vegetarian food available for dinner. We then made the mistake of accepting a meal of three small spring rolls and a small salad as a substitute for a proper dinner (instead of going for a proper meal in a restaurant). This morning there was no proper breakfast, just some (good) coffee and a sad, lonely croissant left when we turned up at our first stop at EMPA in St. Gallen. So at that point we were desperately hoping for a proper lunch at our charging stop in Gossau, we hadn’t had a proper meal for 24 hours. Unfortunately it turned out that our “vegetarian” lunch was going to be a veggie-burger that was grilled in the juice of the meat in the same frying pan. At that point Angela nearly collapsed and I had to decide what to do next. My decision was the following: we went to a proper restaurant to have a decent meal, we were not taking part in any competition today and deliberately took 10 penalty points to make clear (also to ourselves) that we wouldn’t have the chance to win anything anymore. From now on the WAVE would be a holiday again, no stress at all, we won’t have to worry about anything.
It took Angela the whole day to recover, I am trying to look after her and make things as easy as possible for her. She is much better now and it looks like she will be able to take part in the big electric vehicle parade in Zürich tomorrow. So we will give it a try, see how far we get, but health comes first! It’s great to be a part of this fantastic adventure and we would like to thank all our friends for their help and support today. We’re all a big family!
Andreas and Angela
Day 9 – Baden to Neuhausen
Last night we spent in the very nice Baden youth hostel where we managed to get a room for ourselves, so Angela could rest properly and get a good night’s sleep. In the morning she was feeling much better and was nearly back to her old self. After an early breakfast we packed everything into the TWIKE and left Baden for the centre of Zürich where we were supposed to arrive at 8am for the world record attempt of the largest electric vehicle parade in history. Surprisingly we didn’t see any other electric vehicle until we arrived at our meeting point near the Züri See. Then the CHAOS began… More and more elctric vehicles turned up, it was unbelievable. Such variety! Of course there were lots and lots of TWIKES, probably nearly as many Teslas. There were Ions, iMievs, Amperas, Tazzaris, City-Els, Zoes, Twizzys, and many many more. I even briefly saw a Horlacher 1, I think. The TWIKEs were all channeled to one side to join the end of the parade, because Louis wasn’t sure whether they would be counted as hybrid vehicles by the Guiness Book officials. We didn’t mind that, it was great to drive in a group of so many TWIKEs. The parade was absolute chaos, the promised free route through the Züri Fäscht was partly blocked by idiots who had extended their stalls onto the road and delivery vans who tried to get in and out to re-stock the many stalls along our route. But after about two hours of stop and go we had made it: a record number of 388 electric vehicles had taken part in the parade and incidentally also in the first electric traffic jam in history!
Electric Vehicle Parade in Zürich
Driving the Parade
The rest of the day was filled with a hunt for stamps at several check points around Zürich, which is supposed to continue tomorrow. A large number of the parade vehicles joined us on this hunt which was really great: for the first time in our lives we could experience how it will be when the density of electric vehicles will finally be larger than the density of “normal” cars. What a great feeling that was! So quiet and relaxed! Wolfgang and Christina had arrived for the parade as well with their world-record TWIKE (511km on one charge) and we joined forces in the hunt for the stamps. At the end of the day we had managed to collect them all, although we arrived in Neuhausen with a two hour delay because of the chaos in the morning. We didn’t mind the extra 5 penalty points…
Wolfgang was proud of his record!
Neuhausen is great! In case you don’t know: the Rhine Falls of Schaffhausen are actually in Neuhausen! So after a dinner of a few limp salad leaves and chips we went for a walk to have a closer look. The falls are quite a sight, maybe not quite as spectacular as Niagara, but still very impressive:
The Rhine Falls of Schaffhausen in Neuhausen
Tonight is going to be the last one of the tour and we are going to spend it in …. you guessed it… another nuclear bunker!
Have a safe night! Till tomorrow
Day 10 – Neuhausen to Küsnacht
The WAVE 2013 is over and we actually won something! We ended up third in the competition for the best vehicle (judged by over 1000 school children), we got third prize for our blog, and finally we came first in the competition for highest efficiency (lowest energy consumption). It was really nice to win this prize, considering that we actually pedalled 1800km through the alps in 10 days! We probably deserved it…
First place in WAVE 2013 category “most efficient vehicle”
The morning was filled with the hunt for the last few stamps, after our “breakfast” was delivered to our accomodation (paper bags with a croissant, a bun, an apple, butter, jam, and a cup with cold latte coffee from the van of the local baker, parked in front of the bunker). The drive was great, relaxed and through a beautiful countryside. The sun was shining, a cooling wind was blowing, the stamp stops were easy to find, and the people there gave us a warm welcome. A special treat was the ferry over the Züri See on the very last leg to Küsnacht.
On the ferry over the Züri See
In Küsnacht we got free drinks, ice cream, and cake… the days of the ubiquitous Bratwurst were finally over! It was a long wait till the end ceremony at 5pm, filled with long talks with new and old friends. Then finally Louis stepped onto the stage and the end of the WAVE 2013 began. I was SO pleased that in the end it were Frank and Frank of Team Phoenix Contact who won first prize. They are fantastic guys and really deserved the win! Congratulations again!!!
The winners: Frank and Frank from Phoenix Contact
Then suddenly it was all over, a few more photographs, hugs, goodbyes, hope-to-see-you-agains, and we were on our way to Thomas Bechtiger’s TWIKE Service in Zürich, where Wolfgang and Christina picked up our trusted TW1009 with their van (Angela had tears in her eyes) and we will spend the last night in Switzerland before catching the train to Salzburg in the morning. Thank you, Thomas!
The proof: we’ve done 2121km in 11 days (we got the TWIKE with 22km)
Our journey is not quite over yet, we still have to drive all the way back to England. But we already know that we will miss being on the road with our TW1009 every day… we would have had no problems carrying on.
The adventure is over, we are on the train from Zürich to Salzburg to pick up our car and drive home. We got up early again as usual, but it’s really weird not to have to consult the road book to check where we have to be and at what time. The mountains are still there outside the train window but they are unreachable, like a movie behind closed windows. Going by train is a very civilised way of travel, but also a very impersonal one. You make no connection with the people or the country, you just observe…. or fall asleep. A very strange feeling after the last 10 days of intense contact and open windows.
Mountains behind windows
At 13:58 we will be in Salzburg to pick up our car from the hotel we stayed in a week and a half ago. Then we’ll hit the Autobahn and make our way towards Calais, which we will have to reach tomorrow afternoon for our ferry home.
It has been a good journey with highs and lows. At the end we will have travelled 5000 km in just over 2 weeks… by car, ship, TWIKE, and train. We have slept in B&Bs, hotels, bunkers, youth hostels, and an electric vehicle workshop. We have made many new friends, some of whom we might never meet again. We have met old friends whom we hadn’t seen in years.
We would like to thank everybody who helped making this journey possible and all the people who helped us on our way. And thank you for taking part by reading our blog!
It was a good journey!
Angela and Andreas