We have had the very special opportunity to follow Kate Trennery as she rides her Montague folding bike down the Iron Curtain Trail from Travemünde, Germany to the Danube River. Kate is a Junior History and Media Studies dual major at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. This year, she received the Edward H. “Ted” Mullin ’06 Memorial Fellowship Prize through the History department at Carleton, and she is using this opportunity to bike the Iron Curtain Trail and gain personal experience in a piece of history.
Kate is documenting her trip down the Iron Curtain Trail and has semi-frequent access to internet. In an e-mail interview, she told us more about her trip:
Which model are you riding?
I’m riding a Paratrooper, 20 inch frame. It’s been great so far, and I’m not sure what I would do if my bike weren’t so tough considering some of the road conditions I’ve faced!
What do you have for accessories to accommodate all of your gear?
I have a little Topeak handlebar bag that is big enough for my camera and a few other essentials. It’s really easy to clip on and off and doubles as a small day bag when I’m exploring a city by foot. I have a saddle bag that doesn’t actually fit on the saddle and instead rides with the handlebar bag-that’s where I keep my tools and repair kit. And I have a super-strong seat post rack that accommodates my Ortleib Travel Biker bag, a 25 pound beast where I have everything else. It’s a little bit awkward because of the weight, but it’s really sturdy, and waterproof, too.
What are you doing for nutrition on the bike? It sounds like you’ve found some great places to eat where you are staying but is there anything you carry during the ride?
Maintaining nutrition and hydration have been big challenges during my some of my rides. I try to carry some bread, and a small packet of nutella or honey (from breakfast!) but its impractical to carry much else. If I haven’t found anything to eat on the road, and I know I need to refuel, this is my surefire solution. I carry about a liter and a half of water between three water bottles-two attached to the bike and one in my bag. On long days, I usually want water and/or a snack around noon. Sometimes I find a small market or a store where I buy a banana, some bread, and water-that keeps me going for the rest of the day. This is the ideal situation and I’m usually not this lucky! A lot of shops and stores in the small towns I ride through close during lunch time-exactly when I’m looking for refreshment. So, there have been a few times when I’ve been pretty thirsty and low on water. Of course, I always make sure I have enough to get to a bigger town where I know I can find what I need, but I’m constantly fighting dehydration, especially the last week or so where it’s been in the 80s every day.
What kind of photo equipment are you carrying? Simple point and shoot or something more elaborate?
I’m using my trusty DSLR Canon Rebel Xsi, with the kit lens (Canon EF-S 18-55 1:3.5-5.6 zoom with IS) and a Canon EF 75-300 1:4-5.6 III zoom (good for capturing distant GDR watchtowers). And I’ve got Adobe Photoshop and Bridge CS4 on my computer, which I use for basic tune-ups and file organization.
What has been the hardest experience to date?
I think the hardest experience I’ve had so far was getting lost in a thick, trackless forest in the Harz region. That morning, I had some extremely difficult climbs and I was exhausted by mid afternoon. I was trying to get from Elend to Sorge, only 6 kilometers, but I accidentally took a hiking path instead of the main road, and found myself in the middle of nowhere, pushing my bike up, over, and through deep, muddy ruts. Occasionally, I would see signs nailed to tress that pointed to Sorge and gave a distance, so I kept going, thinking I was on the path my guidebook recommended. The whole time, I was furious that this was considered a bike path, but fiercely determined to make it anyway, and as the way became increasingly difficult to navigate, I panicked and started walking without direction until I realized I was lost. I was getting bitten by black flies, stumbling over pine roots, and screaming hopelessly at the forest until eventually, I found my way back to Elend. And later, the road to Sorge. Everything was fine, but it was kind of scary, immensely frustrating, and mentally and physically exhausting.
……and the most fulfilling experience?
My most rewarding experience has definitely been spending two nights in Allendorf at Zur Krone Pension, where the owner, Viktor, is an expert on the former border, a founder of the local border museum, and was more than willing to share his knowledge with me. He drove me to the museum, and some villages in the area, showed me videos (and burned me DVDs of them) about the history of the border, gave me pamphlets, and was wonderful to talk with and get to know. Both he and his wife, Otti, were very kind, and I was sad to leave Allendorf behind, but thrilled to have stayed with them.
You can learn more about Kate and her trip down the Iron Curtain Trail by checking out her blog or following her on Twitter! Stay tuned to our Folding Bikes Blog for featured pictures and updates from Kate’s trip.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us Kate!