Fietsrondje! Looks like a perfect spring day. A bit cool: it won't break 60° F but crystal clear and sunny, just a few clouds. I've chosen a fiets route that's easy to reach: the Leusderheideroute. Now that I am staying in De Pijp, in east Amsterdam, it's a cinch to reach Amstel Station. From there, it will take me under an hour to get to Maarn, the departure point for the journey, a 32km loop.
The forecast called for clear skies but maybe that was the forecast for Amsterdam. Out here in Utrecht province it's cloudy and a bit chilly with occasional glorious moments of sunshine when the clouds part. Spring is here and nature is busy: big reddish ants foraging through the dirt, little black flies covering my saddlebags and birds cheeping from the woods of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. People too: the Dutch are such nature hogs that even a marginally sunny Sunday in May is an excuse to turn out in droves. You've got your touring cyclists--mostly elderly couples in matching synthetic jackets, the woman usually in the lead--and your racers, packs of helmeted, lycra-clad automatons. Also random family groups, dog walkers. One is hardly alone out here in the woods.
|Leusderheideroute (ANWB map)|
The Utrechtse Heuvelrug is a big expanse of forest east of the city of Utrecht. Many of the cycling trips suggested in my guide traverse some portion of it. Described as "varied" in my Dutch cycling guidebook, the route goes between the park and the Gelderse Valley, the farm fields of Gelderland.
So far it's been pretty nice. From Maarn station (on the rail line to Rhenen), I dropped right into the forest, a narrow band of asphalt through the trees, now taking leaf. Stacks of logs beside the trail, the aroma of freshly cut wood. A brief transition through the suburbia of Austerlitz (named for some reason after Napoleon's victory in Czech land), then I enter the park proper, at first through the woods, then opening on a broad sandy path. It was a good idea to come out here today: it's a delight to ride through what is essentially a big park for the urban masses of Holland.
|Standin' at the crossroads.|
|Handy knoppunt guide.|
It is ingenious how they construct these fietsrondjes. You can't guess why you're being routed through suburbia and over freeways, and then it becomes clear as you enter a dense forest. The route traverses the suburban miasma of Soesterberg, a brief stretch of forest, then back over the clogged A28. Then it cuts across the top portion of the Leusderheide ("not accessible"), formerly used for military training. Here the fietspad is just a brown band embossed with periodic white bicycle symbols and at points just disappears. I start to wonder if I'm going the right way (toward point 51). But then I enter the Treekerduinen and it's ok. This is the second, eastern portion of today's ride. Still cloudy with a hint of rain though patches of blue open to the north.
|Kaleidoscope, minerals on exhibit, Den Treek.|
The Den Treek estate is an old wood for wandering, now encroached on by suburbia. Some kind of odd little exhibit of knickknacks and jewelry and minerals. Toward point 90, I ride on a dirt road alongside old pastures, a very pleasant if brief stretch, where I greet a middle-aged couple out picking flowers who might fit the role of the consul and his wife from Under the Volcano, had they not met their tragic fates. This soon exits on a busy suburban road: it could almost be Bethesda. Then a turn onto a narrow road and I pull up this bench in front of a field of cut grass. Only one more knoppunt to go before the return to Maarn. In short, an easy fiets route, though "varied" is a bit of an exaggeration.
|Final stretch to Maarn.|
|De Monnickendijk ('Monks' Dike')|
Or maybe I spoke too soon. Yes, Woudenberg was just a suburban eyesore (though it did have some cool apartment blocks). But leaving town, suddenly there's an arrow toward knoppunt 6, and I'm riding along a slim band of asphalt that weaves through supremely tranquil farmland for about 4km, edged by sprays of white and yellow flowers. A sign explains that this path follows the Monnickendijk, a dike built by monks from the Leusden abbey in the 12th century. It straddles the old division between the townships of Woudenberg and Maarsbergen. Supposedly this division separates two strikingly different landscapes but I don't see much difference between the two.
|Bike parking, Maarn station.|