First report from my bicycle tour from Amsterdam to Passau

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Raybo
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First report from my bicycle tour from Amsterdam to Passau

Post by Raybo » Fri May 19, 2017 2:43 pm

I am sitting in room 413 on the fourth floor of the very nice Hotel Beluga in Aachen, Germany. In the past 5 days, I've ridden about 250 miles across The Netherlands, one quarter of the entire trip, and I need a day to rest off the bike.

A few obvious observations:

Virtually every road in The Netherlands has a either a bike lane or a separate bike path. It is amazing! I saw dozens of bike riders every day, though very few made an acknowledgement.

All cars stop to wait for bikes to cross the road.

The Netherlands may not have many hills, but it does have constant wind.

The Netherlands is a crowded place.


I arrived in Amsterdam after two flights (one to London, one to Amsterdam) with a sleep debt that I still haven't quite paid off. While the new bike's 50 pound case had to wrangled, it is much easier to maneuver than the other bike's square case.

There I spent 2 nights with Olle, a 30-something philosophy teacher in Secondary school. He was just completing his first full year teaching about Global Justice, The Netherlands topic this year. Olle is a lifelong vegetarian who made a fabulous Indonesian stew that served as both dinner and breakfast the next morning.

I assembled the bike (about 2 hours) and mailed my cases to Passau. I checked out the Cuyp Market, next door to Olle's place, and had my first order of French fries and mayonnaise! I also bought some food for my usual stir fry dinner.

Olle and I easily fell into conversation and it was fabulous spending time with him.

On Saturday, May 13, I said my good-bye to Olle and immediately took a wrong turn! Instead of going around the central part of Amsterdam, I rode through it, which I enjoyed. Not all my wrong turns would turn out so good.

It was a bit rainy and took a long while to get out of Amsterdam proper. But, once I did, I spent the next 20 miles riding west next to canals through that mix of homes and farm fields that is The Netherlands main terrain.

As I hit the coast and turned south, I entered the dune lands that stretch from there to The Hague, my night's destination. I saw antlered deer, gliders, short trees and a sandy scrubland that reminded me of Texas, in a good way. My main impression as I rode up and down (The Netherlands isn't completely flat) was of an abandoned golf course with a few too many sand traps and no fairway.

After missing my umpteenth turn of the day, I navigated through the urban area around The Hague, arriving at Friedel and Andrew's new place. They are friends of Julia and mine who rode around the world on their bikes and now have two boys and a house in The Hague. It was great to spend time with them and meet Max their newest and spend more time with Luke, their 4 year-old. It was here, after snaking up three-flights of tiny stairs, that I realized that The Netherlands has its hills in people's homes.

The next day, Andrew, Luke and I rode to a French bakery (me on a Dutch cargo bike) where I got a small vegetable quiche and whole-wheat rolls for the road and a chocolate croissant for me. I left there to good wishes and friends remembered.

It took many miles, some in a light rain and more next to a motorway, to get out of The Hague and its environs. I'd laid out a route that headed just north of Gouda (pronounced How-duh) that traversed a body of water (lake? low-land? sink?) on a tiny sliver of land dotted with pretty houses and gardens.

Once away from The Hague, I was next to canals the entire day.

My hosts that night in Zeist were Naomi and Rivka, her talkative 11-year old daughter. I arrived about 7. They had already eaten and had made enough for me. Naomi is a smiling education consultant who has traveled by both bike and foot.

I got up early to see Rivka off to school and to hit the nearby grocery store for the day's provisions. I found some pesto sauce, got some very nice rolls, and discovered a brand of chocolate chip cookies that I like. Nothing like a good cookie to get you down the road!

I wouldn't be surprised if I see Naomi and her fiancé in San Francisco some day.

Just past Zeist, I rode through a national park that is a forest cut by fast moving roads. Past that was farmland, at least it smelled like it, but there were also homes everywhere. A pasture was usually surrounded on all sides by homes.

Eventually, I got to another national park and encountered my first actual uphill! It was pleasant riding but I was next to (not on) busy roads all day.

I turned south and had a good downhill run into Arnhem, which looked to be a busy city. From Arnhem to Nijmegen I followed a dedicated bike path during bike rush hour for the 10 miles between them. This included crossing 2 rivers!

The allies flattened much of Nijmegen (Nye-may-khen) and the locals chose to build anew. There are a few older buildings and I can't say the mixture of those and the new is pretty. But, the hotel was nice (2 floors of steep stairs) and I discovered my first Subway sandwich shop!

After a filling and tasty breakfast and a visit to the Subway shop, I was riding out of Nijmegen about 10:30. Arnham is on the Rhine and Nijmegen at the base of its wide valley walls. Riding out of Nijmegen was the first real climbing of the trip. On the other side is Groesbeck (Hrows-beck), a town involved in Operation Market Garden (a failed WW II attempt to breach the Rhine). I saw several high-quality displays of photos taken during the operation standing in the same place.

Just past Groesbeck, I made another fortunate wrong turn and went through a fabulous forest on a dedicated bike path. While I didn't like backtracking, I found sitting on a bench among the trees eating lunch and contemplating some of the conclusions of the book Sapiens, which I'd just finished, a grand moment.

After some of the usual bit of farm-homeland, I spent much of the day pleasantly riding along the Maas (Meuse, in Belgium) river. After more meandering on the other side of the river, I, again, entered more crowded communities. I was told to arrive after 6:30, so I rested at a roadside cafe eating my first ice cream of the trip.

In Baarlo, a small village, I spent the night with Paul and Yvette across from a tall church tower that rang the hour throughout the night! Paul had made a huge amount of a rice and kidney bean chili that really hit the spot. Paul and Yvette, who arrived as we were finishing dinner, had recently finished a 6-month tour of Western North America and were full of tales about it. It was nice that we had ridden through some of the same areas. Paul has also ridden from near Baarlo to Shanhai, though he mostly talked about his desire to work a bit (he sold bicycles while Yvette was a child psychologist) and do long bike trips.

I managed to hear only a couple of the night chimes!

The next morning, Paul and I talked further about his lifestyle choices and I suggested he think of how he wants to live not just to the next 6-month bike ride but for the rest of his life. As all the hosts I've had so far, it was hard to leave Paul and Yvette so quickly, but my motto is that It is better to leave wanting to stay then to stay wanting to leave!

Yesterday's ride from Baarlo to Aachen, just over the Dutch border, was uneventful. More like traveling by bicycle than true bike touring. It was hot, I was thirsty, and the long, flat road uninteresting. The one thing that kept me going was knowing that today I would rest.

Aachen is where Charlemagne is buried and the site of a major WW II battle.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

Miriam2
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Re: First report from my bicycle tour from Amsterdam to Passau

Post by Miriam2 » Fri May 19, 2017 3:57 pm

Raybo, you always take such beautiful and interesting photos, are we going to have a sneak preview?? 8-)

Hockey10
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Re: First report from my bicycle tour from Amsterdam to Passau

Post by Hockey10 » Fri May 19, 2017 5:12 pm

Miriam2 wrote:Raybo, you always take such beautiful and interesting photos, are we going to have a sneak preview?? 8-)


+1

Raybo, sounds like you just found the most bike friendly country on the planet.

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Raybo
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Re: First report from my bicycle tour from Amsterdam to Passau

Post by Raybo » Sat May 20, 2017 12:32 am

Miriam2 wrote:Raybo, you always take such beautiful and interesting photos, are we going to have a sneak preview?? 8-)


I haven't found a way to move photos from my camera to the internet without a computer, which I am not carrying. Alas, no previews.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

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oldcomputerguy
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Re: First report from my bicycle tour from Amsterdam to Passau

Post by oldcomputerguy » Sat May 20, 2017 1:20 am

Hockey10 wrote:
Miriam2 wrote:Raybo, you always take such beautiful and interesting photos, are we going to have a sneak preview?? 8-)


+1

Raybo, sounds like you just found the most bike friendly country on the planet.


Switzerland might also be in the running for that title (no pun intended). Our guide there told us that over half the population doesn't have a driver's license or car, they either walk or ride bicycles. There were tons of people on bikes in Zurich.
Anybody know why there's a 20-pound frozen turkey up in the light grid?

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