Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Magic of Metric

I used kilometers to track distances on this trip for a couple of reasons. The supposed reason: because that is how they measure distance in the Netherlands. The real reason: distances sound so much further in kilometers. In any case, you get way more exercise when you cycle in kilometers since you cycle so many more of them, right?

A Metric-to-Miles Tutorial
A kilometer is kind of a mini-mile, while a mile is sort of a super-sized kilometer. The kilometer was developed by the French, as a solution to the problem of things being so much closer together in Europe. By using kilometers, Europeans get more elbow room on their crowded continent. It is still unclear why Canada adopted the kilometer when they have large North American distances to cover.

Here is some more or less useless scientific info on the kilometer: "The kilometre (American spelling: kilometer), symbol km[1] is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to one thousand metres and is therefore exactly equal to the distance travelled by light in free space in 1 299,792.458 of a second."

That description suggests some questions to inquisitive minds. For example, who really cares how far light travels in one bazillionth of second? And what is this "free space" thing? Does light travel slower when it leaves "free space" and has to go through a Construction or School Zone? Finally, if the kilometer is based on how far light travels... can we really be certain about kilometer distances after dark?

Here is more practical info, brought to you by Footloose Fietser:
  • If a kilometer was this long: __________
  • Then a mile would be this long: ________________

For this trip, here's the count in miles:
  • By bike... 527 miles
  • By train... 819 miles
  • By foot... 124 miles
  • By boat... 38 miles
  • The grand total... 1508 miles


  1. Amazing journey, yes very interesting.

    Inquiring minds want to know how many frites per mile (or Km if you prefer) does it take to power you:
    by bike
    by train (assuming you don't eat on the train)
    by foot
    by boat minus really great wine calories

    Also did I miss the wine reports? I read with avid interest the trip journey, the Frites report, the weather but I didn't see the wine report.

  2. Didn't track frites-per-mile, darn in. May have to go back and repeat the experiment :-)