This post is a long time coming. We’ve been in the Netherlands for over a week, and it is only today that I’ve been able to get the first posting out. Blame it on exhaustion, technical problems and a little too much wine at night! The next one should be easier.
We had a rough start, beginning at the Charlotte airport, where we arrived with all our luggage only to be told that we were ticketed from Atlanta to Amsterdam. Our itinerary was from Charlotte, but our ticket was from Atlanta. Who knew they were different entities? Ninety nail-biting minutes later, we headed to our gate, corrected tickets in hand — ready to start our cycling adventure.
Whoa … not so fast! Our transatlantic flight out of Philadelphia was late, very late. First, the plane was somewhere other than our gate. Then they were looking for pillows. Then they were fixing a leak. We finally boarded three hours late, and taxied out, only to break a towing pin, and return to the gate. By this time, our confidence in this tired, retro-looking plane was beginning to waver. That feeling was justified. An hour into the flight, we had an engine problem necessitating an emergency landing in Bangor, Maine. It was a long eighteen hours before our rescue plane arrived from JFK and we were finally on our way – stinky, sleep deprived and a day late.
This is our second time in the Netherlands. We were last here in 2014 when we spent a month cycling through Belgium and the Netherlands. Our loose plan this time is to circumnavigate the country clockwise. The route is called Ronde Van Nederland (Tour of the Netherlands). It’s a 1300-kilometer tour that follows long distance routes along varied landscapes. Taking pictures of our bike at six prescribed locations will qualify us for a certificate and listing on the Ronde van Nederland website! Not that we care much about certificates; neither of us is much for planning or goal setting, but it seems like a reasonable structure. We’ve nabbed two of the photos and traveled 350 km so far. We aren’t convinced that we’ll make it. It was tight before we lost a day to the travel debacle, but we’ll see how the weather and our bodies hold up. Either way is fine.
We woke up to rain this morning – the first we’ve seen since our arrival. The Netherlands has been warm and dry for months. It’s great for holiday-goers, not so good for plants. We learned yesterday that there were voluntary watering restrictions in place. Our host told us about it yesterday as she pointed to a section of wilted vegetation in her yard.
In the past, we’ve stayed in hotels, but have decided to take advantage of an organization called Vrienden op de Fiets (Friends of Cyclists) as much as we can on this trip. It’s a network of nearly 6,000 hosts who provide cyclists and hikers with a bed, breakfast and bike storage – all for €19 each a night. They’re all different, but all interesting and mostly enjoyable. I’m writing this post from Groningen, where we are staying with Mariane & Willem. He’s a journalist, she works in education. It’s a gift to be welcomed into people’s homes, to see a little slice of their lives, and to sit down and speak with them. It’s interesting how similar our worldviews are.
I have yet to meet a Dutch person with anything positive to say about Trump and am relieved that people can separate us as Americans from our current administration. I had been worried about that when we embarked on this trip. Europeans are generally more informed on American politics than most Americans are.
We’ve been riding for six days now. We’re both stiff and achy but holding up well. The terrain is, of course, flat. This is the Netherlands, after all. As usual, it’s been windy – mostly ‘agin us. If we have a gale force headwind, we must be going in the right direction. Our route yesterday had us riding generally with the wind; how sweet that tailwind was. Our favorite riding so far has been through the dunes by the Noordzee (North Sea) – a hauntingly beautiful natural coastline. Our least favorite was probably the 32km Afsluitdijk dike – a long noisy slog with a mound of earth on one side, and cars whizzing by at 100+km/hr on the other. It is, however, an amazing construction feat.
We’re following the long distance (LF) routes as we cycle the perimeter of the country. It makes for easy navigation, although we suspect that the occasional missing sign might have made it home as someone’s souvenir. It’s always comforting to see that green and white sign ahead and know you’re on the route. The Netherlands has an amazing network of bike paths – mostly on dedicated paths, occasionally shared with light car traffic. Scooters share the paths in the cities, which can be disconcerting. E-bikes are ubiquitous. I want one. With an e-bike, I might even be able to cycle in Asheville. For now, I’ll settle for the Jeffrey motor – and yes, I’m pedaling!
Enough for now. More to come.