Friday, April 30, 2010

Hanging with Vinnie G on Queen's Day

The weather changed last night. Big storm, and rainy today up until about 4:00, when it suddenly got kind of nice. Ah well, all that sunny warm weather felt kind of strange... this is Holland after all. But with the forecast for next couple of days, I'm going to be damp at best, soaked at worst.

Rode over to the Kroller-Muller musem this morning in the rain, spent a couple hours gradually drying out with Vinnie van G. A big gallery of his paintings... couple dozen... could hardly believe it. Then went into next gallery... a couple dozen more! By my rough count, they had 53 Van Gogh's on display. Who knows how many more in the back room. Lot's of other great stuff, but with that many of his paintings, he stole the show.

Sun came out in later afternoon. Walked into town. Music, food stands, football and volleyball. Needless to say, on Queen's Day both sides wear orange!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

N 52.21.138 / E 4.51.006 > N 52.06.217 / E 5.47.025 (with one comic mishap)

When you have the penthouse room, with a sundeck, in a nice apartment in a lovely part of Amsterdam... and good coffee, good company, and a baby who can make even a grump like me laugh... it is pretty hard to convince yourself to put everything you own in a couple of bags, and hit the road on a folding bicycle.

Around 10:00 I ran out of excuses for postponement.

Cathleen took my picture as I got ready to head off. Based on her advice, I changed plans a bit... instead of cycling to Amsterdam Centraal to catch train, I went to Amsterdam Zuid. And miracle of miracles, I didn't get lost! Cathleen's directions were spot on: "turn left, go straight, turn right when you hit the big street, take third exit from the roundabout (and don't worry, bicycles have the right of way), go straight for a while, hink left, turn right, then keep going till you see the trains".

I puzzled out the ticket machine at station -- it rejected every card in my wallet, would only take change, so I bought a lemonade and got 18 Euros in coins to feed the beast. Then I tackled a flight of about 50 steps to get up to the platform.

The rack-mount arrangement I designed for the case on the back of bike works beautifully on the road: case stays in place like it was glued. But I never considered what might happen if you tilt the bike at a 45 degree angle to schlep it up stairs. What happens is simple: it slips out like it was greased, and slides down the stairs like an Olympic luge! Two ladies at the bottom thought it was a disaster at first, then realized no harm done, had a good laugh, and carried it back up to me. Kudos to Haliburton, they make a heck of a case -- not even a dent.

Easy trip by train to Arnhem.

At Arnhem, had a light lunch (Dutch specialty: grilled cheese sandwich), then began the ride-in-the-country stage. Beautiful ride, hit the edge of town just a few hundreds yards from station, then an almost instant transition to tiny bike paths through the woods. VERY happy with the GPS system, it is brilliant. Even with the "knooppunt" network of signage, it is still easy to miss signs and get lost. I'm pretty confident that, sans GPS, I would be sleeping tonight under a bush somewhere in the forest. With the GPS I only got lost once or twice, and easily got back on course.

Staying tonight at a B&B in Hoge Vulewe park, near Kroller-Muller museum (tomorrow's treat).

One thing, though. I made every effort to pack light, but even so it feels like I am carrying an anvil on the bike. Some of this stuff has got to go. Will sort it out tomorrow and see what I can do without. Tomorrow is Queen's Day, and apparently flea markets reign -- so I may be setting up a little stand by side of the road. Thought about a pricing solution to move this stuff fast. Might take this approach: "5 Euros for the first pound of stuff you buy, 3 Euros for the next pound, third pound free, and if you take a full 4 pounds, I pay you. Special 50% discount if any item needs laundering."

Had a nice dinner, now off to bed.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Two terrific days in Mokum

Mokum... slang for Amsterdam (thanks to Enno for the info!).

Two terrific days. Garrett picked me up at the airport and Jonathan, Cathleen, Garrett and I have been basically hanging out.

Incredible weather... t-shirt days. Amsterdam is heading into Queen's Day holiday, and a lot of people knocked off early to enjoy a couple days of perfect blue skies and warm breezes.

Recuperated from travel yesterday, went cycling today. Cathleen lent me her bike, and I took it out for a short ride. Cathleen: keep the bike, fix the brakes! Then I put my bike together (no damage from the travel) and went out for a longer afternoon ride. Terrific! Rode kind of aimlessly, just focusing on mastering the protocols of cycling here. Amsterdam has no 'master plan' of roads... so I was lost, then found, then lost again, found again... throughout the afternoon. Eventually did make it back home, so I was never apparently lost beyond retrieval.

Much of the two days spent enjoying getting to know Jonathan, who is about 5 months old. Those of you who know me will be saying "Hunh???", given my usual relationship with babies. 99% of babies seem to see me and burst into tears. Jonathan is in the remaining 1%... bursts into smiles (at pretty much everything, so I can't really take the credit).

Heading out tomorrow to Arnhem by train, then by bike to Otterlo. Given how well I did today at getting lost, I'm a bit nervous, but hey... will try it and see how it goes.

Amsterdam is a fascinating city in many ways, but kind of heaven on earth if you just dig bicycles. To see what I mean, take a look at these photos... 82 pictures taken during 73 minutes, by a guy sitting at a cafe.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Flying east...

Katie dropped me off at the airport Monday morning. Checked in no problem... wasn't sure whether checking the bike would be simple, but as far as the guy at United counter was concerned it was just a big blue suitcase, that squeaked in under the weight limit. Weighed in about 48 pounds, which surprised me a bit. Of course, that includes the weight of the suitcase, some tools, spare tire, couple other things... but this little Tikit bike is no featherweight.

Reached Chicago no problem, stretched legs, changed planes, and took off on the intercontinental leg six hours ago. Finished my first book -- a Jack Reacher turkey. Had a meal. Listened to some tunes. Slept a bit (got lucky, have two seats in United Economy Plus or whatever they call it, so I could even kind of 'lie down'... like a contortionist hedgehog... for a little while). Woke up with a few hours flight time still to go.

If my navigation guesstimate is right, we are more or less right above the volcano now but at about 37,000 feet so well out of any ash plume nonsense. Must admit though, that I am keeping an ear out for any change in engine pitch.

Was nervous as a cat in the rain yesterday, very distracted, had to keep myself from unpacking / repacking / messing about with bike etc. Katie was kind enough to keep a close eye on me and make sure I didn't walk in front of a bus or anything, but I really was not tracking.

Beautiful weekend though! We went out for two nice rides... "Inside Loop" and "End of Trail". Had dinner with Jane and Steve -- Steve was off to Hawaii in the morning, Jane to Turkey a couple hours later.

Garrett has offered to pick me up at Schiphol. What a very nice thing, and much appreciated.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Low news is good news!

Graph here tells the tale: number of news sources covering the Volcano / Flight Disruption story peaked at approximately 1000 on April 20, has now dropped to very nearly nil.

BRUSSELS, April 23 (Reuters) - European air traffic has returned to normal after the end of almost all restrictions related to the spread of volcanic ash from Iceland, European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said Friday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Volcano calmer, planes flying, fingers crossed

Expert volcanogist prediction from April 16th:
"We expect it to last for two days or more or something."
-- Armann Hoskuldsson, University of Iceland

Professor Hoskuldsson's prediction has been 100% correct so far.

"Flights across Europe are expected to return to "100 percent" on Thursday -- seven days after ash from an Icelandic volcano forced the shutdown of airspace and stranded thousands of passengers around the world, the air traffic agency Eurocontrol said."

"Scientists in Iceland said Wednesday the volcano has decreased its ash output by 80 percent compared to the first day of eruption, April 14."

"Armann Hoskuldsson, a volcanologist at the University of Iceland, told a briefing that the volcano's output is now "insignificant," though it will continue to be active for a while."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Most important piece of luggage

Will one shoebox be enough???


A story released today by the Associated Press provides insight into the cause of earthquakes.

According to senior Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi "Many women who do not dress modestly... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which consequently increases earthquakes." Article here, with advice on 'formulas to repel earthquakes'.

Mr. Sedighi did not provide any information regarding volcanoes.

(A serious moment, though it isn't my natural preference. My heart goes out to the women and men of Iran, who must put up with the opinion of this pinhead and his cohort on a daily basis.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

The VOC Supply Chain

Geopolitical Primacy as a Function of
Effective Supply Chain Management

The Global Ascendancy of the Netherlands, circa 1600-1799

(Does that title make your eyes glaze over? If so, feel free to skip this post! Ditto if you’re only here for the cycling stuff. To jump to the rest of this post, click here.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Operation Market Garden & "A Bridge Too Far"

Just watched "A Bridge Too Far", suggested by Rogier. Film is a history of Operation Market Garden in Arnhem / Nijmegen area, as interpreted by Hollywood... but a good interpretation withal. All-star cast -- Connery, Redford, Olivier, Hopkins, Hackman, Caine, Ullmann -- the list goes on.

Operation Market Garden was arguably rushed and poorly planned, strategically flawed, and certainly tragic. That said, hindsight is 20-20, with our having the benefit of time. All armed forces in Europe in late 1944 operated in a different situation, with very imperfect information.

The Mountain of Stuff, reprise

Reduced the mountain to a molehill, and have it all packed up into briefcase, two mini-panniers, and a handlebar bag.

Two weeks until departure, but who's counting?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Knooppuntennetwerk

The Knooppuntennetwerk -- one of those things that is obvious, once someone invents it. A few years ago, Netherlands began implementing this bicycle signposting system. I could attempt to describe it, but why bother when it is so well described in this short video. Suffice to say, the Knooppuntennetwerk seems to make it nearly impossible to become lost. Nonetheless, I shall persevere in my simple ambition.


Had a meeting of the Bay Area Bike Friday Netherlands Cycling Tour Affinity Group last Saturday. Three local riders of various Bike Friday bikes will be riding in the Netherlands in May -- so we got together for a ride, and yak, and drool over some maps session. Katie joined us, on her long-time favorite ride (a big-wheel Raleigh). Lots of fun! Weather a bit dodgy in the morning, but no worse than average day in Holland in my experience. Weather beautiful in afternoon, like most spring days in northern California. Rode with my comfy saddle. Makes a world of difference.