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    • Day 19

      Back to Maastricht

      September 5, 2023 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

      The final riding day of any extended overseas ride is always a mixture of exhilaration and a little sadness. While everyone is understandably glad that they are close to achieving the goal that they have come so far to do, it is a bit disappointing that the first part of our long awaited adventure is about to end.

      Although there were no mountain stages to conquer, and the final stage was only a relatively short one, today a completely new challenge would confront the peloton. With an expected top temperature of around 30C, this would easily be the hottest day we had experienced since the start of the ride.

      After checking out of the Mercure Hotel, we divided into three groups. Since the pink ladies were already having so much fun, and were proving to be masters of both navigation and laughing every km of the way, I thought it would be wise to leave that group unchanged. The two co- captains were Pascale and Maggie.

      The second group was to be led by Michael and Ken. Although it was probably the largest of the three groups, I had to admit that I was a little worried about whether they would survive the navigational challenge of finding the way out of Aachen. On several times already on this ride, Ken had somehow misread his GPS to be leading his followers in entirely the wrong direction. Early in the ride, he had even navigated himself to the wrong side of the mighty Meuse River. This time he would be assisted by Michael, complete with his Inspector Gadget headset, mobile phone, auxiliary power supply and satellite dish. Surely nothing could go wrong (and somewhat to my relief) nothing did go wrong.

      The final group of David, Greg, Mary, Yvonne and myself made up the rear. After meandering our way through the busy, peak hour streets of Aachen, we were finally out in the country again. Aachen is an ancient city that dates back to Roman times. It also played a significant role in the time of Charlemagne in the 10th century. Modern Aachen is a city of some 250,000 people and appeared to be quite prosperous. It is also a spa city, and therefore could be named as Bad Aachen. The authorities decided to overlook this naming honour, as it would mean that their city would no longer be the top of the alphabetical list of cities.

      About an hour after the start, we found a delightful little cafe to stop for morning tea. It was already getting hot, and the cold drink was most welcome. The warm cherry pie was also welcome.
      We had decided that Gulpen would be a convenient place to stop for lunch, before the final push to Maastricht. We stopped at the first shop we saw, and purchased sandwiches to eat by the side of the busy road. While we ate, a succession of noisy trucks, buses, motorbikes and cars kept us entertained. It was only when we resumed the ride, that we discovered that there would have been much nicer locations for our lunch a little further into the town. Oh well.

      Although everyone thinks that Holland is completely flat, we discovered that is not quite true. It does have a succession of small hills, and we successfully managed to ride up and down every one of them. If we stopped in the sun, we soon discovered just how hot it had become. Fortunately, there were also some delightfully shady locations which also provided some respite. They also provided quite welcome opportunities to relieve the pressure in our ageing bladders.

      The final checkpoint was on the outskirts of Maastricht. I thought it would be apt if we could all ride the final couple of km to the hotel as a single group. And that is exactly what we did. It certainly made a colourful and impressive sight, as our line of 19 Ghostriders rolled through the outskirts of Maastricht. It really would have been worthy of a crowd of thousands to welcome our entry back into the town we had ridden out of two weeks earlier, but the crowds apparently had found something better to do.

      After arriving back at the hotel, we all shared handshakes and hugs to celebrate the achievement. It had been a challenge, but on every occasion that we had been put to the test, we had prevailed. We had summited the hills, ridden the long km, navigated through busy city streets, bounced over cobblestones, endured those early head winds, brushed against the stinging nettles, battled recalcitrant ebikes with bent keys, ridden through cobwebs, and swallowed numerous flies. We had even survived the daily challenge of conquering the breakfast buffet. We had also laughed so hard we cried, we had supported each other when it was most needed, and in the end , we had all finished together.

      Now we have a few bike free days, before we start it all again in Koblenz.
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