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Hello 2021!

Whew, what a year…for all of us anywhere. Hope you’re staying safe wherever you are.

Good news is that my family and I have been lucky. Healthy throughout the year, we got to travel outside of Switzerland twice to meet friends and family … with TW560 being part of the trip.

This entry is a long-ish re-cap of 2020 with some selected photos. TW560’s adventures will follow in retroactive entries later.

This year was a very busy one – my company’s fully digital setup and myself being used to be remote all the time when traveling coupled with customers transitioning themselves to enabling more remote access meant that I suddenly was able to do most of my work without having to travel. Intros & demos that would have meant me traveling a week from London to Paris, Luxembourg, Frankfurt, Milan and Geneva suddenly could be done in one day. After 3 years our startup has now not only grown into a 50+ employee scale-up organization with 4 offices globally – more importantly we survived and were able to close substantial deals even with a pandemic in full swing.

We start off 2020 with me and my family going into isolation early February. At that point in time I had been working closely with customers from Singapore since my last trip there in November 2019 and they were pretty blasé about the virus in early January but then saw the first wave hitting them very hard and circuit breaker measures were put in place. I saw in real-time what was happening in Singapore (panic buying and all) whilst in Europe all was still business as usual…or so it seemed. I knew that it was just a matter of weeks until we were at that same point. I started out with a very basic but practical home-office setup – with a view:

Home office with a view

Home office with a view


 
And from there, I started a looooooong stretch of not going anywhere and not meeting anyone except my family. The first lock down came and went. With extremely nice weather and us living in a detached house with a large garden, life wasn’t too bad. Lots of late evening drinks around the fire bowl and many BBQ sessions with lunch or dinner outside.

Interestingly, everyone – even the hard-core tie-wearing bankers – were slowly starting to loosen up and by May we all were just wearing t-shirts on our Zoom calls and everyone’s hair just grew longer and beards were a thing… Even my appearance changed dramatically!

Your new personal trainer telling you that it will not hurt ... too much

Your new personal trainer telling you that it will not hurt … too much


 
By end of June restrictions in central Europe were basically back to zero and we were thinking about where to spend some weeks on vacation. We didn’t want to fly anywhere – rather apply last year’s winning recipe to a new trip. We decided to travel to Italy to visit our friends in northern and central Italy and Rome and add some days sightseeing and at the beach here and there. Our children liked the idea … Mid-July we started our 3-week trip to Italy. The first two days would be just me unwinding and visiting some friends in northern Italy on my own.

My trip to Lake Garda took me across Switzerland’s southern and Italy’s northern alps.

Northern Italy - Twikeing bliss

Northern Italy – Twikeing bliss


 
Obviously, I had to get my Italian treats as soon as I was there…

Coffee and liquorice

Italian coffee and liquorice


 
Taking smaller roads – as usual – can offer some surprises…like this one:

Oh, 25 percent!

Oh, 25 percent!


 
On our way to central Italy, we cross through the ever-beautiful Tuscan landscapes.

Rolling hills of Tuscany

Rolling hills of Tuscany


 
My wife and I are definitely planning on living here sometime in the future.

Hilltop villages in Tuscany

Hilltop villages in Tuscany


 
One thing COVID did, was to scare everyone away from Italy. I’ve been visiting Rome since I was 5 years old and have never, ever, seen the city as empty as this year. See for yourself!

Never seen Piazza di Spagna like this

Never seen Piazza di Spagna like this


 
Or the Vatican… Getting into the dome took me less than 5 minutes instead of 2 hours.

... unreal!

… unreal!


 
This is how my kids and wife – visiting Rome for the first time – were able to see, and more importantly, VISIT – all important landmarks in one day. My kids stayed in Rome for another day whilst my wife and I slowly returned northwards.

Rome, Panteon - my kids plus just a handful of people

Rome, Pantheon – my kids plus just a handful of people


 
With just over a week to go, we stayed another few days at the sea before returning to Switzerland.

I love driving along the sea

I love driving along the sea


 
After these few days of blissful calm at the sea as there was nobody here either, my family returned by car.

Photo shooting with TW560

Photo shooting with TW560


 
My last 2 days returning home from Italy were a treat – extremely nice weather plus many more nice kilometres across the Apennine Mountains and Swiss Alps.

Back in Switzerland, I then was back to work and not much TWIKEing due to continued home office work.

Nevertheless, I still had very sporadic business trips to customers that required on-site, face-to-face meetings. In order to avoid taking public transport or planes, I rented a Tesla and drove to Frankfurt, Geneva and Munich hassle and virus-free.

Munich to Zurich in a Tesla

Munich to Zurich in a Tesla


 
It was quite fun and for someone who was driving EV’s in the early years of 2000 with 40-80km range and 8-hour recharges, the Tesla ecosystem was just like taking a warm shower on a cold day. It just works and proves that ICE’s are indeed a thing of the past.

Then, in September 2020 TW560 reached a very important milestone: 20 years! Congrats, TW560 and thank you for 13 years of adventure and wonders.

Then, in early September I was asked if I wanted to be part of a record attempt to drive a TWIKE 2000km on one charge. Thomas Bechtiger, our Zurich based TWIKE repair shop owner was convinced that if he just dumped an insane amount of batteries into a TWIKE that this would be possible…which he then did and added some aerodynamic tweaks for good measure.

Charging for 2000km

Charging for 2000km


 
He even changed the steering from the usual yoke-style left-right movement to a system similar to how you would steer a tank in order to be able to fill the right hand passenger space with even more batteries!

Batteries, batteries, batteries

Batteries, batteries, batteries


 
We started the trip and went around a 1.3 km circular circuit for ever. I was the first pilot and with my extensive long-distance TWIKEing experience was tasked to find and help iron-out any kinks as soon as possible before they would create any problems.

No problems came up – this was quite a feat for a TWIKE that was cobbled together from used and discarded e-scooter cells and a total write-off TWIKE within 2 weeks prior to the record attempt.

I drove the first 4+ hour shift and with my arms slowly getting very tired going around the same right-right-right-right box circuit with a TWIKE weighing 3x the usual weight, I handed over the cockpit to another seasoned TWIKE pilot and drove back home with TW560 to get ready for our next adventure TDST2020 starting the next day.

(We didn’t quite make the projected 2000km on one charge but still made it into the local newspapers – click the image below to read the article.)

Click image to read the Article (PDF)

Click image to read the Article (PDF)


 

One day after the 2k challenge, my wife and I set out to drive to Styria. Although we had planned to visit Ljubljana – as I did with my daughters on previous trips (1) – COVID-19 restrictions didn’t allow for us to enter the country for short-term tourism. (…although staying in the city for a few months to really get to know it is definitely something I could imagine sometime in the future – I maintain that it is one of the most undervalued European capitals and a beautiful gem everyone should visit in their lifetime)

Why have we been traveling to Styria once a year for the last 17 years? My Austrian family gathering, wine tasting & having a good time in a seriously beautiful place! …see for yourself:

Southern Styria in one pic

Southern Styria in one pic


 
Getting there was not very easy, as we had decided to cross the dolomites in nothern Italy and were surprised by bad weather and the fact that many of the passes were between 1800 and 2100m … which were covered in snow and ice and made driving very difficult…and cold.

Difficult road conditions

Difficult road conditions


 
The next days, however, were better and suddenly we were driving through a magical winter wonder land.

We took our time and drove only an average of 200km per day and allowed for many stops and saunas at the end of our driving days.

Winter wonderland in northern Italy

Winter wonderland in northern Italy


 
Eventually, we left Italy and entered Austria, only to be treated to the same weather and snowy conditions.

Deep in the Austrian Alps

Deep in the Austrian Alps


 
Entering Styria, everything changed – no snow, sun, moderate temperatures and honestly the best driving conditions one could wish for in a TWIKE…

Having made it to our destination before our kids had, we definitely had to stop at one of the Buschenshank places close to where we stay and drink some Sturm!

We have arrived - Sturm is waiting

We have arrived – Sturm is waiting


 
We spent a few really nice days with our extended family, eat way too much, visit our usual wineries, buy our white wine stocks for the year and have a great time.

As every year, my family leaves early Sunday morning whilst I stay on and drive towards Graz late afternoon.

Traveling with TW560 across Europe on a train is dead-easy and cheap. This year I didn’t have to book a year in advance, though. The car-train was 3/4 empty. This time, however, was the first one I used duct-tape to seal off the cabin. Previously I learned the hard way that the train might itself be turned around during the trip and thus TW560 might be traveling at 160km/h in reverse…which it definitely was not built to do.

TW560's on its way back to Switzerland

TW560’s on its way back to Switzerland


 
In the meanwhile I discovered that TW560 was a YouTube star on its own: a well-known travel blogger included TW560 in the first 10sec of his video – see for yourself.

After more than 9 months of not seeing my team in the UK, mid-December, I decided it would be a good idea to travel to the UK to finally meet and participate in my company’s virtual end-year event live with the UK-team and a pre-event evening at a mansion close to Heathrow. With a special exemption for any self-isolation during my visit (don’t ask how I was able to be eligible for this) I was ready to fully enjoy my flight and stay with relatively high degrees of freedom of movement.

The airplane belongs to me...

The airplane belongs to me…


 
We still took things seriously and kept our distance during our stay. I won the ‘ugly sweater’ contest with my full christmas suit and #billiondollarsanta outfit picture taken just outside our AirBNB.

#billiondollarsanta

#billiondollarsanta


 
Back to Switzerland, all was good. I had the best of all worlds and had a great time catching up with people that I had not seen for the better part of 2020.

But then: B117 reared its ugly head and Switzerland imposed retroactive quarantine!

Aarrrgggh!

Aarrrgggh!


 
Given that it wasn’t clear just how much more contagious the new variant was, I decided to go into full isolation…over Christmas. Not a very appealing prospect.

Christmas in quarantine

Christmas in quarantine


 
I continued to work – being part of the ExCo of a company just requires me to use periods of lower stress to contemplate and plan ahead.

Working & living in quarantine ... at least I get a view

Working & living in quarantine … at least I get a view


 
There are upsides, though:

Upside of quarantine... food magically appears at your doorstep

Upside of quarantine… food magically appears at your doorstep


 
…and with this we’re at the end of 2020 – a year with lots of challenges and remarkably busy for me.

Let’s see what the numbers are for this year:

277k according to DFC3
 
As there is a competition going on over at twike.com, the blog of the current TWIKE manufacturer, I have sent them the km count of the original inverter which is known to be off by about 10-15%.

Original Inverter km-count

Original Inverter km-count


 
As TW560 has been on a super-precise km count since early 2010, the total is drifting apart quite significantly – who cares? Driving my TWIKE has been a blast – since 2008!

13.8k even with all the restrictions in force

13.8k even with all the restrictions in force


 
I’ve got lots of plans for 2021 – one of which is living and working in Portugal for some time – TW560 will take me there…as soon as the restrictions allow for it.

Stay safe, everybody! We’ll get through this.