Internet connections from our boat (the Wending) have been sketchy at best, non-existent more common, so I haven't been keeping up this blog for a couple days.
Here we are back in Amsterdam, after riding 63 kilometers today, 68 yesterday if I remember correctly, and about 2 the day before... but more on that later.
It's Friday night in the definitive party town of the western hemisphere -- pretty much any vice you'd like, just pick your pleasure --gambling? dancing? private party with consenting adults of your preference? bio-engineered killer weed? bicycles? And I headed to the library to get on-line! Can you say nerd?
Quick run-down on the cycling...
Tuesday rode from Einkhuzen in morning, took the boat across to Texel in afternoon. About 3 hours under way, water a bit rough but not bad. Got into Texel late afternoon, went for a short ride to stretch legs and see some sights. Highlight: the spring from which ships bound for the East Indies filled their water casks, before heading out into the North Sea and catching a current south towards Africa. Island water was purer than Amsterdam / Hoorn / etc water, and kept longer... so a fill-up on Texel was the last stop on their way out. Next stop: area of Cape of Good Hope, Africa. (Yes, that was the highlight. I already explained about the nerd thing.)
Conditions Wednesday morning were hideous. Cold, driving rain. Group rode out from Wending around 9:00. Mutinied within minutes. About half of us said "hey, it's been swell, ride on if you want... but we'll see you later" and headed back to the boat. One important stop on the way: Katie and I stopped in at a wool processing factory with a tiny retail showroom, and I got a pair of fleecy wool slippers. Rode the last tiny bit back to boat, and spent next few hours focusing on exploring the potential of the slippers, and enjoying warm feet for a change.
We sailed back across to Den Helder, did some walking around town in the afternoon. The hard-core riders who had continued on the Texel Icy Death Ride joined us around 6:00 pm (after taking a ferry over from Texel). Said they had a wonderful time, but from details that emerged over next day or two... I'm just as happy that Katie and I skipped that particular ride!
Den Helder was not my favorite town. Basically a military base, and one that has fallen on rough times. Town has a hard-bitten feel. Nothing specifically wrong, just not generally nice.
Next morning (Thursday) set out for long day of riding, Den Helder to Alkmaar. Rode down the North Sea coast, in part along the world's widest bike path -- you really could land a 747 on it -- between the water and the main dike structure. After a while, cut inland and rode through beautiful dunes and parkland, until we reached Almaar. A long ride, made a bit longer by 3 of us doubling back at one point in search of a cell phone lost by one of the riders. Found it! A nice day overall weather-wise... very cold in the morning, a tiny bit of rain, but clearing and warming steadily through the day... and by evening in Alkmaar, really beautiful.
Today, from Alkmaar to Amsterdam, great weather and great riding. One comical situation: about 5 kilometers from the ship, the chain broke on one of the bicycles, ridden by the same rider who had the flat earlier in the week, and a minor accident (no damage) just a few minutes earlier. Now, a broken chain is no big deal. There is a tiny tool called a chain-breaker, about the size of a Bic lighter, and we could have made an emergency repair... if we had had one. But we didn't. So we went with Plan B: 10 foot piece of rope, tieing the chain-less bike to a working bike to tow it home! The lady whose bike it was truly was not a happy camper, and the idea of trying to cope with being towed was stressing her badly, so we re-arranged a bit: Katie took my bike, the lady took Katie's bike, a strong pedaler took the tow bike, and I rode the towed bike. Same basic technique I remember from young adult car towing events, and we made it work... despite language barriers. But the kicker was... that we were riding into 5:00 pm Friday Amsterdam bike traffic, at Centraal Station, and it was packed! That we made it through will amaze me always.
Beautiful evening. Had a great dinner on the boat, an Indonesian-style rijstaffel. And here I am living it up at the Amsterdam Public Library ;-)