Day 9-2. Højer to Esbjerg contd.
On approaching Skærbæk we noticed that part of the route that had been closed for maintenance in 2006 and 2007 was now open. After joining the gravel track that would take us up to Brøns we realised pretty quickly that this was soft, newly laid gravel. It was also wet gravel and our speed dropped quickly. It was also harder to keep control of the bikes and my back wheel slid sideways at one point. We tried to keep our wheels on two tyre tracks that appeared although it made little difference.
After three kilometres the road surface changed to tarmac and soon we saw Brøns church in the distance. Neither of us remembered it from the tour in 2006, which is strange seeing as it is very distinctive. We managed to miss the turning at first, but realised our mistake within a hundred metres or so. We retraced our steps and turned towards Havervad. When we reached Vester Âbølling we found a sign telling us that the NSCR route along the dyke between Vester Âbølling and Mandø Ebbervej was closed. The sign next to it that said that cycling was forbidden and mentioned the period 2004 to 2007. We were a bit unsure what to do but in the end decided that someone must have forgotten to take down the signs at the end of 2007. The cycle path along the dyke had to be open by now. This was a bit of a risk to take, as it looked like we'd have to cycle all the way back to here if the cycle track was actually closed.
In the spirit of "nothing ventured, nothing gained" we headed out to the sea dyke. It was now a quarter past eleven and we had a quick snack as Damae had got the wobbles. We found a small wood that gave some shelter from the wind, just before the road turned once more into a gravel track. When we reached the sea dyke the sidewind turned into a strong tailwind and the road surface was smooth and had an asphalt-like layer on the top. We zipped along, a little apprehensively until we noticed a couple of cars parked up along the road. We saw there were roads coming in from the East, which suggested we'd not have to retrace our steps all the way back to Vester Åbølling should the track turn out to be closed. A bit further up there was a nice VW camper on German plates parked right across the road. Fortunately there was plenty of room to pass.
We could make the most of the tailwind here as the road was free of traffic except for the parked cars. The only reason to stop was to adjust our clothing. We'd dried off a bit and I took off our Rain Legs. The wind was blowing the long grass and reeds around as Damae stopped to adjust her clothing. You get an idea of what the breeze was like from this picture of Damae. The tailwind was strengthening all the time and at this rate we reckoned we'd easily be able to get past Esbjerg this evening. There was another free campsite at Broeng around ten kilometres north of Esbjerg that looked interesting. At Vester Vedsted we rejoined the NSCR as marked on our Cycline map. We paused for a moment as Damae needed to change the map as we had reached the end of map 5. The wind was now not only strong but becoming blustery. Behind us the clouds were darkening again.
Even so we'd made good progess so far. At twelve thirty we saw a sign that told us that Esbjerg was less than thirty kilometres away. That would be a doddle even if the wind wasn't a full on tailwind. "No problem" we thought. By now we were wondering where we could stop for lunch. We could sit on our folding stools if we couldn't find a picnic bench but what we really needed was some shelter from the wind but there wasn't any.
When we reached Mandø Hølade we relaxed a little as this meant that we were out of the section of the cycle track that was supposedly closed. Apart from one gate that had been tied closed with twine the cycle track was open to cyclists. We looked around us and noticed Ribe in the distance and encountered the first moving vehicle on the road that we'd seen since Brøns. By now the wind was gale force and we realised that maybe our best hope for a place to eat lunch was to find a cafe. A little further on at Kammerluse we got lucky again and found a restaurant on the other side of the road. Given the blustery and cold wind it seemed a no-brainer to buy lunch for a change.
We parked our bikes up against the wall near the entrance, locked them up and went in. The place was pretty empty given that it was lunchtime and we found a table with a view and sat down. It was good to be out of the wind for a bit. Even better there was a vegetarian omlette on the menu, which we both ordered together with a coffee. It took a while for our meal to arrive, which we didn't mind and it turned out to be very good. Just what the doctor ordered. After a good hour sitting on normal chairs at a normal table, we decided it was time to go. We left our sanctury of warmth and dryness just a little reluctantly and walked out to our bikes. Under the eaves of the building I noticed some birds nests made of mud which were quite neat.