Monday, December 9, 2013

Return to the Veluwe

Apeldoorn is just an hour east of Amsterdam but the nearby Hoge Veluwe national park feels quite remote. It is the same swath of forest and heath that I described in Rondje Veluwe a couple of years ago. This time my girlfriend Alice and I took a two-day journey from Apeldoorn through the forest.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Return to Groningen

Sunday morning: we're at a cafe right on Schiermonnikoog beach and it's cleared up. With the wind blocked by glass panels it's fairly warm. A long strip of beach on the open sea. Kite flying and sail racing. After having our coffee we continued to explore the network of packed sand paths through the dunes. It being a clear, lovely Sunday in late summer, we had plenty of company.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Groningen / Schiermonnikoog - Day 2

View from the hide, Lauwersmeer national park
In the morning, we said goodbye to Dick and Flora and went up the road to Zoutkamp, with a little harbor. From there, we skirted the Lauwersmeer, a man-made lake that's at the center of a national park. Not too spectacular, just a large expanse of grass. We found a bird "hide" and looked at some swallows hopping along the bank of a pond where cows lazed. The hut had wooden boards for shutters and you lift them to open a slit in the structure, presumably unseen by the birds. At the entrance we ran into a Belgian birder who showed videos of an owl that later attacked him. Other solitary men carrying telescopes and cameras wandered past.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Groningen / Schiermonnikoog - Day 1

New paths, Groningen
The beautiful town of Groningen, tucked away in Holland's northeast, quite close to Germany. The plan is to head for the island of Schiermonnikoog, easternmost of the Frysian isles, which form a crescent-shaped barrier to the North Sea. We rented identical Gazelle Orange bikes at the train station (€8.50 per day). Then we crossed the ring canal and headed north, got fried fish at the Vismarkt, made an espresso stop at Black & Bloom, run by a coffee maven who "really knows his stuff" according to my cycling companion Brian Jones. We were sitting outside sipping our espressos, me observing the cheerful passersby on foot, bike and scooter, Brian on the phone to London. Another gorgeous summer's day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kromme-Rijn Route Oost

A mid-summer ride. Overcast but quite warm, another day in a European heat wave. I rode the train to Utrecht, then changed for Houten, just east. Then I realized it might be easier to access the route from Culemborg so continued another 10 minutes. From Culemborg station I headed north to the Lek river (the western continuation of the Nederrijn, itself an extension of the Rhine river). A barge-like ferry went across to the north bank, carrying a handful of helmeted cyclists. On the other side they all headed east, wind at their backs. I went west, under the railroad tracks toward Houten. This is a swampy area with lots of ducks in stagnant pools. The route follows a narrow road with views of the river, then branches off along a narrow track through swampy fields (to point 64). A horse-drawn cart clops up the trail, then a Sprinter train darts by behind me. It's the middle of nowhere (actually just outside Houten) and I like it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Rondje Peel en Maas - Day 3

Helenavaart, outside Meijel, Limburg
Cooler and breezier today but still sunny and nice. Pleasant start of the route from 9 -> 96 through woods along the Helenavaart canal, here a tranquil brook, then over a wooden bridge and I'm back on the LF-13a. a promising entry to today's fietstocht.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Rondje Peel en Maas - Day 2

Breakfast at the Kessels: various slices of bread, appelstroop (a thick, viscous black jam made of apples), ham, weak coffee. I joined the son and daughter, who speaks impeccable New Zealand English. She had to get to Venlo, an hour's train ride north, to get to her ANWB gig. Tjeu was up too but took his coffee (and roll-up smoke) in the garden. Not a morning person I guess. The young couple told me they'd expect to see a lot of Germans up in Venlo today, who come to shop an an outlet mall there. "Sounds like New Jersey," I said.

I said goodbye without taking the customary photo of my host. It didn't feel right. Anyway Mia and Tjeu were great hosts, welcoming but kindly unobtrusive. Mia told me she's more of a walker than a cyclist, which seems typical. That generation of Dutch are great walkers.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rondje Peel en Maas - Day 1

Now heading southeast, destination Roermond. A warm sunny day and in that part of Limburg province the forecast is for the high 70s -- real summer weather. Seems like a miracle when it first arrives. (May was generally wet and cold.)

This is my second trip to Limburg province; the first was one of my first extended fiets tours in Holland. That two-part trip took in the Maas river valley north of Venlo and the plateau east of Maastricht, this one is between those two and goes from Roermond to Weert, then loops back through a forested area called De Peel, then down along the Maas back to Roermond.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cycling Amsterdam: De Plantage

This is one of the "off-the-beaten-track" cycling tours which the Amsterdam Tourist Board gave me when I was researching an article about Amsterdam-Noord. I've got about half a dozen of them, and I want to try out each one. Each tour has a minutely detailed itinerary through a certain part of town and provides all kinds of details about the historical and socio-cultural background.

Today's cycle tour goes right by my office on Wibautstraat. It's a tour of De Plantage, which takes in some of the districts of Amsterdam-Oost and Watergraafsmeer. It's a sunny, cool Sunday.

Amsterdam-Noord pt 2

The itinerary for my cycling tour of north Amsterdam was determined by the locations of the QR codes installed by the Amsterdam Tourist Board. I am not a tourist -- I live here -- but I'm always willing to learn more about this interesting town. Having cleared the lower part of Noord, which is usually as far as anyone gets, I pushed onward.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Amsterdam-Noord pt 1

Windy and overcast. As I boarded the Buiksloterweg ferry across the IJ gray clouds bunched up over the Overhoeks tower. Next to it, the white plastic EYE winks at the lady with the parasol on the tower. The crossing takes about three minutes. I take cover in the inside deck. The ferry casually dodges tugboats, pleasure craft, cruisers and great big barges transporting logs and slag.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bike-ulele tour, part 6

Del Rey in Amsterdam
Here I am in Valkenburg Park, Breda, having bid adieu to Yvonne Lewin and Leilani Kurnick, aka Del Rey. Del has got on a train to Rotterdam where she will change for Hoek van Holland and catch the ferry to England. I could get on the train to Amsterdam but I see no reason to leave the fabulous Valkenburg on a day like today. Truly it is one of the great parks of Holland. Gently rolling landscape, sunlit hillocks where couples lounge,  single jet of water, unadorned, as the park's fountain.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bike-ulele tour, part 5

Tilburg wheels
I had been concerned that the dog odor would ruin my breakfast here in Tilburg, but it seemed to subside as we had our boiled egg, cold cuts, cheese, jam and bread. Inneke joined us. She told us that we were her very first vrienden op de fiets. I was surprised to learn that the homes of the cycling friends were not rated or inspected. Inneke's place was ok but not up to the cleanliness standards of most other vrienden. I liked Inneke, an attractive woman with short gray hair. She is some sort of new age consultant and also caregiver for old folks. She's into saunas and we traded our favorites.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bike-ulele tour, part 4

Rainy Tilburg

Today Del Rey and I cycled from Den Bosch to Tilburg. It was another day of inclement weather though there were periods of sunshine. When we awoke, the rain was coming down hard. We had breakfast at Tiny's house on Jekerstraat, the usual bread and rolls and hard-boiled egg, cheese, cold cuts and jam.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bike-ulele tour, part 3

The Di Blasi, ready to roll.
This morning in Tiel, Del was determined to return to Amsterdam. Then we would take the train back to Den Bosch tomorrow, where we've got a workshop scheduled, and I could get my presumably faster Gazelle. "But that seems like a surrender," I told Del, since we could easily ride on to Den Bosch from here, under 40km. And I had purchased the folding Di Blasi for the trip and it worked ok, if not optimally, and thanks to Del's guidance, I'd fashioned a handy luggage transport technique: suspend the backpack from a wooden rod under the seat and use the sternum strap as a support on the seat post. By placing the bungee cords across the rear rack, the pack would be pushed back and not interfere with pedaling. We got a broomstick at a household items shop on Albert Cuypstraat in Amsterdam, and Del asked the guy at the bike store nearby to saw it to size. At the same store I purchased a nice handlebar bag.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bike-ulele tour, part 2

Del Rey strums outside Oberhausen station. 

Today we embark on the first stretch of our bike-ukulele tour. We spent the night in Voerde, Germany, the "Ruhrpott" region which is known for its coal mines. Yesterday Del Rey did a workshop with the Ruhrpott Uke Club at a café called Fabrik 14 in the city of Oberhausen. It looked like a lefty coffee house with vintage posters for political rallies and a big black bust of Lenin over the bar. The barman a sad beanpole. After the workshop they had a song circle and played such mind numbers as "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" and "City of New Orleans." Del and I sat in a corner and drank pilsners.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bike-ulele tour, part 1

On the ICE to Germany. Passing metro stations: Amstel, Spaklerweg, Van der Madeweg ... my old route. I'm in the front of the train, Del Rey's in the next car. Del makes up her mind about things. She's headstrong, which is how she got where she is today. Her Brompton folding bike is tucked under the seat as we embark on our summer '12 international bike-ukulele (bike-ulele?) tour.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rondje Betuwe - Day 3

Outside Den Bosch

Today it's beautiful again as I sit in the little living room of the bunk house here at Het Dijkje. The plan is to head south to Buren, then get on the LF12, hugging the river Waal down to Den Bosch. So I'm only doing a day and a half of the three-day loop through Betuwe.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rondje Betuwe - Day 2

View from the bridge, Rhenen

In the morning as Jan was removing my bike from his storage unit, he discovered I had a flat tire. A thumbtack pointed out the location of the puncture. Jan accompanied me to a bike store in the center where the repair is now being made.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rondje Betuwe - Day 1

Up early fortunately. I am excited about this cycling journey. The weather forecast is unrelentingly good. Nothing's going to stop me now...