Friday, October 1, 2010

Rondje Salland en Vechtdal - Day 2

At breakfast I conversed more with Jos Coenen. He is originally from Limburg, now runs a consulting business to put people back in the workforce after a long hiatus. His girlfriend is a consultant for an American firm that manufactures prosthetic hips and shoulders.

Jos Coenen brought me breakfast. The obligatory boiled egg in a cup, bread slices with cheese, paté, bacon, an apple, orange juice, coffee and buttermilk. I discussed my own career hiatus with him but found no revelations.

Now heading further east along the Vecht basin. Cool and overcast. The initial part of the route passes farmsteads and cornfields, along old country roads lined with alders. Here I sit by a canal strewn with lily pads, green-headed ducks floating on the surface. Church bells gonging melodiously up the road.

Rondje Salland en Vechtdal - Day 2 (ANWB map)

Vilsteren: Windmill on my mind
Today I can take my time. It's Sunday. I have the wonderful sensation of not caring when I get there, fully confident that the ANWB route will get me there in good time. So it becomes a question of the sheer sensual enjoyment of the landscape. The coolness is bracing, my legs are powerful and can take me anywhere. It's as if the road nourishes me, strengthens me. I pedal to conform to its contours, I am buoyed by it. With my gears now fully operational, I shift only as necessary.

I stop for coffee and pie at Herberg De Klomp in Vilsteren: amazing apple pie. The place is in the Michelin guide. Right now it makes an extremely cozy retreat from the cool dampness of the morning. The other side of the room is occupied by a group of comfortable-looking seniors, some in racing suits, the ones with the Cannondale and Batavus bikes parked outside.

Tinder fungus, aka fomes fomentarius
Earlier I was practically brushed aside by a withered little woman of perhaps 70 in a sky-blue synthetic coat, pumping along on her Batavus machine as if she owned the road. I find it heartening how strong some of these old people are.

One advantage of American café culture: free refills. Here a cup of coffee is served as a formal unit, with creamer portion and cookie. If you want more you have to order it.

Overijssel brims with 'shrooms
Amanita muscaria

Now entering the Archemerberg, the top part of the protected forest called the Lemelerburg. Here the forest consists of planted evergreens. The path is an asphalt strip alongside a sandy road. It's mostly all-terrain bikers (with helmets and silly suits) out here - they generally take the sandy road. Now the route shifts from LF16 to LF8 and heads southwest. Further uphill it becomes sandy heath with lots of different mushrooms popping out of the soil, including the notorious Amanita muscaria, generally considered poisonous but "now primarily famed for its hallucinogenic properties."

The tendency is to linger. Now I'm up at the "highest point" of the Archemerberg, really just a rise overlooking some farmlands, purple heather covering the hillside, cool wind. Why would I want to depart this scene?

Archemerberg: high point
It did not take very long to get through the Lemeler forest. Below the Archemerberg, the road widens and climbs something that's more than a hill if not quite a mountain. I'm exhausted by the top, which seems to be where the action is judging by the volume of cars parked around some kind of recreation center/lodge. These are deeper woods with taller trees, like Washington perhaps. Felt so good to sail down from there. At the bottom, I hit the road to Hellendoorn, which is not far from Nijverdal, my destination - in fact, they seem like a continuous urban entity.

"Hellendoorn takes its name perhaps from the bright (helle) or white thorn bushes (doornstruiken) that grew there, but the name can also be derived from the Old Dutch word holendere, which means elder."

The road to Hellendoorn
Skirting Hellendoorn through the forest, I climb another significant hill. The woods are practically deserted here, just the occasional cyclist or walker. I'm happy to just sit here and listen to the sounds of silence out of the clustered junipers. (The Dutch word for juniper is jeneverbes, and the powerful spirit jenever, aka Dutch gin, is flavored with juniper berries.)

Mevrouw Olthuis lives in a not-so-old house with a lot of beautiful old furniture in Nijverdal.
With white hair framing a smooth, unwrinkled face, she reminds me of Miss Foley, my first grade teacher. She seems like a kind, patient woman and speaks English quite well though she only started learning it 15 years ago, probably when she was around 60. She needed it to talk to some kind of a veteran, though I did not ask for details.

Unlikely hangout for "ghetto youth" at edge of Nijverdal
"This town is new, only about 100 years old," she told me. "There are textile factories. They service the airlines."

The seat covers? Flight attendants' uniforms?

"I don't know. But there is not so much work now. Eight hundred people left the town last year." A substantial amount in a Nijverdal/Hellendoorn metropolitan area of 35,000.

"Will you mind the sound of the clock? It's right next to your room. If so, I can turn off the chimes."

"No, don't bother," I told her. "I've slept in far noisier situations. Like my house in Amsterdam, for instance."

"Here it is very quiet."

Mevrouw Olthuis with Kim
The house is on Holterweg, at the south end of Nijverdal, right by the forest, the Sallandse Heuvelrug.

Coming into town, I encountered a massive public works project. They appear to be excavating an entire artery, and all the houses along one side are boarded up. Even before the boards, these circa 1950s semi-detached brick houses must have looked grim. Why the hell are they tearing up the street? I asked Mevrouw Olthuis.

"They're building a tunnel for cars and the train. The current road is too congested, so it'll go underneath." Seems like an extreme measure for a town this size.

Unusually and refreshingly, there is no TV on in this house. When I came down into the dining room after a shower and a brief rest, I found Mevrouw Olthuis sitting at the table and reading a book. I asked her what she was reading and she showed me the book cover: something by Danielle Steele. 

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