Friday, August 17, 2012

They don't get much fresher!

Riding between Deventer and Zwolle....Hot, sunny afternoon, through some flat and open farmland... Stopped for a water break.

First noticed off to the right a 'train' of bins, connected to a tractor, and full of potatoes.

Then saw some kind of harvester, attached to another tractor, working the field.

Turned around and saw the farm building on our side of the road, with chalkboard sign out front.

Sign said, basically, "Fresh Potatoes", with three varieties. Well, that was cool enough.  You could get very fresh potatoes.  Although, really, I'm not at all sure that freshness matters in spuds.  Does it?  More important question: which variety makes the best Frites?

Popped inside building to check it out, and found a "Potato Automat"... put in your Euros, take out your Potatoes.  Don't know exactly why, but field-to-automat-in-30-paces struck me as just VERY cool thing.

And if you wanted, they also had fresh eggs.

Rode on, without buying either spuds or eggs. No place to cook them, no desire to haul extra kilos on down the road.

Maybe I'm just easily amused, but this really tickled me. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Deventer was every bit as nice as initial impression led me to hope.

Short rain that cooled the air, then we went out for an evening walk.  Beautiful evening, beautiful light, people picnicking across the IJsel, and a peaceful but active 'cafe scene'.  Walked until dark -- and we finally found a bank machine to top up the pockets! -- then home for the night.  Decided to spend the morning cycling around town, sans baggage but with camera, then had a terrific sleep.  Woke refreshed, had breakfast then off to poke around.

Each of the people we've met running B&B operations has been interesting, but Yolande was particularly welcoming and open.  She is a fiber artist, very much involved with quilting.  We had slept under one of her quilts -- Gustav Klimt feel, and warm to boot!  After touring around town, we had coffee and hung out with her for a while, looked at some of her works in progress (Norway summer inspired piece, and an 'umbrellas from above' piece that I really liked).  Hope she will do a show in a local church year after next -- would give us a good reason to return.

Definitely a 'second story' city -- street level was nice, but second stories had the good stuff.  Here is one street level thing that really impressed me -- an outdoor art gallery.  Items permanently mounted to walls, not taken in at night.  The fact that they aren't disfigured or graffitied speaks volumes.

Wonderful little museum, in a building off the main square.  Building started to lean even during construction a couple centuries ago, builder did what he could, but it is way out of plumb.  Still standing, though.  And museum had a couple really fun things...

Paleolithic drop spinning stones, which probably 1 in 1000 people would recognize but Katie spotted immediately.

And a display of Hanseatic trading routes.

And the perfect motorcycle for Rogier.

And a 'bone-shaker' bike that you could actually mount and ride, albeit with bracing to keep it upright, and on a set of rollers. How did anyone actually ride one of these on roads and live to tell?

And a small display of bikes with a very cool concept:  showed early, middle, recent versions of a couple types of bikes... kids bikes, work bikes, and, something that was really special for us, folding bikes!
Picture of folders probably a bit hard to decipher, but I'll post it anyway.

Finally tore ourselves away from Deventer, and headed out towards Zwolle around noon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hot cycling in the Hanseatic cities

Another great day of cycling.  Short day in number of miles -- about 20 -- but conditions were perfect:  hot (by Netherlands standards), flat, slight breeze mostly from behind, strong sun but with high clouds to screen it some.  Easy day to dehydrate, so we bought a couple liters of water and kept topping up our bike bottles.

Short ride Brummen to Zutphen, so we reached Zutphen late morning.
A great town!  "The City of Towers".  Economic heyday back in Hanseatic times (1500/1600s?).  Now a quiet, well preserved town with lots of street life... cafes, walkers, small stores.

Beautiful church, we spend an hour or so there, picnic outside, tour inside, listened to organist practice on a huge organ in cavernous space. Katie investigated church initially while I did my pagan thing outside... stretched out on bench and examined the leaves above.  Later found out this tree was planted on Queen's Day 1991.  Very peaceful to rest for a bit.

Went into church on Katie's recommendation.  Organist was latest in a chain going back about 400 years, and he knew his stuff.  Even hearing him practicing scales was a treat, and when he launched into some unknown classical ecclesiastical piece... wow.  Naturally I was hoping he would play at least a few bars of Whiter Shade of Pale so I could hum along, but Procol Harum wasn't on for that afternoon.

Then rode on to Deventer along the LF3 route.  LF3 rocks.  Beautiful countryside, great cycle paths, very little traffic other than occasional fellow cyclists.

Deventer may be even nicer than Zutphen.  Staying in B&B that used to be a coffee warehouse.  Town is like Zutphen, but scaled up a bit... another prosperous Hanseatic trading city become a nice mid-size city with apparently very high quality of life.  Had a little rain shower early evening, then went out for walk through town.  Loved it.  Like many mid-size towns in Netherlands, current economy seems to be based on cafes, then retail mix of phone / shoe / underwear shops, with a few modern and antique bookstores.  Hoping to go out in town this morning by bike, take some more photos, visit the historical museum.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What a day, so much to see, and riding the Netherlands Alps

 Woke up this morning on houseboat in Arnhem... just downstream on Rhine from the "bridge too far" of Operation Market Garden fame.  New bridge, old one destroyed in war, but way too easy to imagine riding into barrel of Panzer tank as we cycled across the bridge. Glad we only had a little light traffic to contend with.

Houseboat was cool.  Ducks know how to beg for breakfast!  And many tiny flying gnats last night, thankfully no mosquitoes.  Great  breakfast, packed up, then headed into downtown Arnhem to do some provisioning for the ride.  We dawdled around until about 10:00, but it was still way too early to find anything open.  City almost empty except a few delivery trucks and cafes.  Turns out that 11:00 is the opening hour.  Civilized, what?

Rode out of town past a favorite landmark tree of mine... different story, different trip, so will leave it at that.  Then began a day of what seemed like climbing the Dutch Alps.  Up out of Rhine valley, and down, and up, and down, and up, repeat for several hours as we rode through the Hoge Vulewe.  Maybe 95% of the Netherlands is flat, but believe me, the remaining 5% is a surprise!  Bikes glide on the flat, feel heavy uphill.  Tempted to ditch some gear... like heaving piano off a Conestoga... but really, we don't have a lot to pitch.

Hoge Vulewe beautiful.  Forests, heather, fields, hills, bike paths.

Cemetery within the park.  Some anonymous WWII dead, some military dead going back to the 1800s at least, some local people.  Feeling was almost pagan.  In a forest, with many of the graves marked literally with uncarved stones. 

Stopped at a little clearing for lunch.  Couple picnic tables, couple bikes, family having a picnic in distance.  Another family stopped, wished us "eet smakelak", or something very close, means "bon apetit" in Dutch.  What was really very cool about this place was what was missing.  No trash.  No graffiti.  No initials carved in the tables.  Just beautiful countryside and a shared public space, not misused by anyone.

Saw the bikes of our dreams in tiny town of Dieren.  Electrified folding bikes with Shimano Nexus 8-speed hubs.  That is to say, very much like what we are riding... but augmented with batteries and electric motor.  Going to have to investigate these a bit more :-)

And in same spot, just a really nice scene of older couple riding a tandem.

In Brummen now.  Time to put my feet up.

Oh yeah, NO RAIN today!  Hotter, humid, can tell it is going to rain sometime soon... but another beautiful day for riding today.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

View from the saddle

Riding from Lent > Arnhem yesterday, had Contour 'Roam' camera mounted on handlebars, set to take a snapshot every 60 seconds.  Pretty random way of taking photos... whatever happens to be in front of you when second 59 ticks over to second 60... but some cool results!

Sunny Sunday, Lent > Arnhem

Another beautiful day, no precipitation event.  Four or five days running of perfect cycling weather if your definition of perfect cycling weather is sunny, warm, long days.  The odds of this continuing are against us... this isn't natural... we are psychologically prepared for another soaker, but enjoying sun and warmth while it lasts.

Cycled Lent to Arnhem today after a great nights sleep, a good breakfast and a lazy morning.  Short distance in a direct line, but we ended up riding about 30 miles again... our typical day... meandering around the country.  Staying in a houseboat on the Rhine, really nice place and a killer location.  Just back from terrific Indonesian dinner... cycled to dinner, naturally.

Seems like everybody here now has electric bikes... not really everybody, but there are a lot... and lot's of different types.  And saw a very unique bike:  a tandem, with an old 2-stroke 50cc motor, putt putting along with two riders.

Having a great time, I'm about as happy as this donkey...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sunday morning... mucho cycling... changes... a new saddle

Dawn Thursday promised great weather for cycling, and the day came through... as did Friday and Saturday... now Sunday, and weather looks even better.  In Nijmegen (Lent), and not a cloud in the sky at 7:30.

Internet connectivity on a boat in the country or tied up at the end of a wharf is pretty spotty... classic 'thin/shaky pipe', if you can get a connection at all... so I haven't been writing much.  Time for a little catch up.

The Golden Circle route really has been terrific riding through beautiful country, on some wonderful bike paths.

Second, the group of people has turned out to be a pleasure.  Interesting process, how strangers with a common interest become friends over the course of a week cycling.

Although I am allergic to children, having the five kids along turned out to be fun.  At times they were like a troupe of monkeys, and with their size and nimbleness could easily beat me to the best bits at the breakfast buffet. But at other times they gave a chance to see the world through child's eyes, which was really great.
And best of all, during a break to fix a flat tire, I had the chance to teach them how to make the supremely annoying 'blade of grass turkey gobbler trumpet'.  They can take that bit of priceless knowledge back to Catalonia, impress all their friends and annoy their teachers.

Yesterday was last morning on the boat.  Said good-byes, then headed to airport to pick up our Tikits.  Bike assembly took about 2 hours, but went very well... locker area at Schipol has nice stainless steel tables, perfect for the job.  Only one washer left over at the end, and it was a very small one, so can't be that important I hope.  Took train to Nijmegen... rode across to Lent... dropped off bags at B&B... went out for a local ride... quiet evening, early to bed, both slept great, and here we are!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Another beautiful morning, and a promising Thursday

Sun came out, glorious cycling day

Dry all day long... a few sprinkles, but not enough to even get damp... what happened overnight? Wonderful day of riding.  Again, did about 35 miles in total today.  Fun to see the set of random individuals become more of a group through shared experience.

... and Rainy Tuesday ...

Saw the sun peak through a couple times, especially in the morning.  Otherwise, magnificent endless varieties of Netherlands rain, with generous amount of wind.  Rode with group on a tour out of Vollenhove.  "Venice of the Netherlands" area, small towns withcanals instead of streets.  Area was mined for peat from 15th century on... early mining entirely unregulated, resulted in subsidence across entire region, hence flooding, hence the current canal-based environment... basically water with spots of land.  Our guide (Edward) is a bit scandalized that 15th-century peat mining was so unregulated -- situation had been corrected be 17-century, so later peat mining did less damage.

Visited Monnikenmolen, an old mill restored by a bunch of mill enthusiasts,  early in the day.  Great guy there, 'dressed' the mill and gave us a tour of the works.  Amazing engineering, and no circuit boards. 

Good group of riders, all good sports, happy even while we had our lunch standing under tiny awnings outside of SPAR grocery store standing in, naturally, the rain.

Rumor is that tomorrow will be better weather.  Ferry man at one crossing said he has never seen worse than these two days, was actually scared at one point, so there is definitely room for some improvement.

Rainy Monday...

Team Anna Antal cycled Hoorn > Einkhausen, then spent afternoon at museum.

Katie and I had been to the museum before, so decided to separate from group and ride a different route on our own, via the KP network.  Rode nn > nn > nn >nn, which makes sense if you have a map of the network.  Total about 33 miles.

What was truly outstanding was the variety of rain.  Started with light sprinkle, through shower, to rain, to rainstorm, on to torrent, then deluge, then deluge raining sideways with howling winds. At one point we saw a waterspout in the distance offshore of Medemblik.  No photos of this trip, would have needed a Nikonos underwater camera.  Riding in rain was kind of fun!  Once you are well and truly soaked to the bone, with zero chance of getting dry for hours to come, might as well roll with it and have a laugh.

Sunday August 7 -- Amsterdam > Hoorn

42 miles from Amsterdam to Hoorn.  A nice day of riding, bracketed with rain at each end. In the morning, some light rain, just enough to rationalize as "it helps keep you cool."  In the afternoon, a little sprinkle that became light rain, that became medium rain, then definite rain, then downpour.  Reached the boat right between the 'definite' and 'downpour' stages.  Had been beautiful just before, so was riding in t-shirt and dark glasses.  Sincerely believed that "boat was just around the corner, maybe 1 kilometer, max", so never bothered to stop and put on jacket.  Well, boat was not 1 kilometer, not 2 kilometer, not 3... was maybe 5.  I got a pretty good soaking.  Others did stop and gear up.  Must have appeared to them that Californians are either very hardy, or a little slow.

Found out a bit more about other riders.  Two riders from South Africa, not together, just coincidence. Two families from Catalonia, travelling together, hard to tell exactly how many since most are kids, hence always moving, hard to be sure you've got an accurate count -- but I think five kids, young, from 5 to 11 at a guess.  Five year old rides on a 'dragger' behind Dad, others pedal. My vote for toughest rider of our group:  girl of about 10, Julia, rode entire distance without a complaint...  other than a minor melt down as she wrestled with rain gear late in the day, pitched her helmet a good distance in the process.  Five other Americans.  Three French. A Canadian couple

Stayed the night anchored in Hoorn.  Beautiful 'pocket harbor', was one of the main ports for V.O.C. in 17th century.

My bike is kind of a rolling wreck.  Needs some time in the shop. Fine once it is up to speed and in high gear.  Actually, all fine until it is time to use the brakes.  Then there is some drama.  Worn brake pads?  Worn rims?  Who knows, and I'll probably not look much closer as it does eventually stop, with a chorus of squeals from the front and strange whirring / moaning / grinding / singing sounds from the rear.  It's a rental!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gay Pride Day, Amsterdam

Arrived at the boat Saturday afternoon.  Saturday was Gay Pride Day in Amsterdam, a city known for it's quiet, reserved, understated approach to life... wait, no, I'm confused, that is some other town... it certainly isn't Amsterdam!

We joined our boat down at the docks mid afternoon.  Didn't realize it, but the parade in Amsterdam was naturally on the canals, by boat, and the end of the route... was exactly where we were docked.  Saw dozens of barges, all colors, all themes, but with the same basic message:  "hey, it's great to be gay, but if you aren't well hang out and join the party anyway, there is plenty of music to go around and the sun is shining".  A good party. The entire continent suffered a shortage of dance music yesterday, it was all in Amsterdam.

Lots of corporate sponsorship of the barges, which was pretty cool. Saw IBM, Google, ING, Cisco, etc etc.

Yarn B-o-m-b-i-n-g in Haarlem

Can't be too careful when using the word for things which might be exploding.  TSA will have their hands on this laptop at some security point, and I don't want any confusion...

Yarn b-o-m-b-i-n-g is one of those things that make sense to fiber people (Katie and her friends), less sense to others (the rest of us who say "huh??? wazzat???").

Basically it's a kind of guerilla street theater for knitters.  Knitters are kind of a wild and rowdy bunch, know how to have a good time.

Our friend Phoebe helped organize and was involved in a yarn b-o-m-b-i-n-g event recently.  Thought of her when we saw this nice little pole-warmer crocheted around a pole outside the
main church in Haarlem.  Note well:  this is the church just down the street from the world's best frites stand, or at least the best my research has uncovered to date.  Sampled 5x over the years, consistently excellent, never received a score of less than 9.  Ketchup good.  Mayo good.  Curry sauce, outstanding!.  I like to think that in the Dutch golden age (16th century), mariners bound for the Spice Islands stopped in the churche for a last blessing and the frites stand for a last snack before heading out on the sea..