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.

Rhenen. The center of town is quite busy this hot Saturday morning with cafés, shops and traffic rolling up and down the main drag. A lively little town. There's even a "coffeeshop," called Meeting Point, tucked amidst the optometrists and clothing stores, selling joints for the price of an espresso. 

Chillin' on the Maasdijk
Picked up the bike, its front tire now fully inflated (€17.50), then wandered around Rhenen till I found the bridge over the Rijn. On the other side, which is Gelderland, I ended up on a road, though the map showed the route following the Maasdijk along the south bank of the river. I went around to the east side of the bridge and rode up, past a sort of antique car summit. Then I found an underpass beneath the base of the bridge and, voilá, there was the Maasdijk, a lovely stretch of road that skirted the Rijn's pasture-like banks. This beautiful ride (to point 9) was marred only by the sputtering antique cars headed for the summit and screaming motorcycles which tore through the tranquility of the countryside like a chainsaw, like a growling bartender.

Rondje Betuwe - Day 2

This is bayou country, swampy pasturelands and a lazy river plied by pleasure craft, ferries, water-skiers. This outstanding part of the trail goes west past the ferry for Elst, Eck en Wiel, the recreational Eiland van Maurik, until the Amsterdam Rijnkanaal where it cuts south, then strikes west to Culemborg.

Het Dijkje motorcycle camping
Back on the trail I realized my rear tire was flat. Two flats in a day! What was I going to do now? I had a little patch kit--everything in it covered in rust. I took it down to a little shed and tried to find a hole to patch up but found nothing. Unsure what to do next, I rode down the road a bit and found a little campground for motorcyclists, Het Dijkje. A bunch of beefy, beer-guzzling dudes were gathered around tents on a lawn. I found the owner, a more amenable character named Joop, and told him I had a flat. He was very nice about it and said it was ok to use his tools. I got to work, partially removing the inner tube, then inflating it and submerging it in a pail of water trying to find the bubble that a hole might produce. But I found nothing, then noticed it was leaking air near the valve and found what looked like a rip in the rubber casing. I sanded it, applied glue to it and pressed one of the patches on the glue. But I couldn't seem to cover the hole properly and it kept leaking air. I explained my predicament to Joop and asked him if there was a bike shop in the area where I could get a new tube. There was one in the village of Maurik, about 3km west and he went and phoned them for me. He told me they were going to close the shop at 5, a half hour from then, and offered me his bike so I could ride over and get the tube. He gave me a map and showed me how to get there.

Joop de Jonge, vriend op de fiets
"Thanks a lot," I said.

"Don't get lost," he said.

I wandered around Maurik looking for the shop and by the time I finally located it, it was 5:15. But the shop was still open. A white-haired man got me an inner tube and a new patch kit. I returned along the river road to the motorcycle camp. Now I had an inner tube but realized it was complicated getting the old one off/ new one on since the rear wheel cannot be easily removed. I had to get more wrenches from Joop. Just then a tall young brunette encased in black lycra arrived and asked Joop for a campsite. She had a tent. I asked her, as a touring cyclist, if she knew anything about removing rear wheels. Not much, she responded, hers is a quick release. She helped me pry the wheel off the frame but I wasn't strong enough to do it. Then Joop gave me a tool specially designed for pulling things apart. I set it up between the frame and the fragile plastic chain housing.

I kept screwing in the prying tool until I could finally pull the frame so that the tube could slip by an opening in the central wheel bolt. After a great effort I managed it, then realized I'd also have to remove the brake cable from its housing.

Meanwhile the cyclist babe was setting up her tent. When she was finished she sat down in front of it and spoke to none of the bikers.

All this was taking time but I felt unhurried. Joop came round again and I asked him if by any chance he had any rooms. He did, in the barracks-like structure I was standing beside. In fact, he was a member of Vrienden op de Fiets! I phoned my contact in Lierdam, the destination for today's journey, around 40km west, and for a second time canceled.

I removed the brake cable and managed to get the tube off and put the new one on. Then it was a question of properly tightening all the bolts I'd removed. The rear wheel was a bit crooked but it seemed ok. I pumped up the tire and was ready to go.

Eiland van Maurik recreation area

I was quite hungry and asked Joop if there was any place to eat. He said there was a pancake house at Eiland van Maurik and a snack bar in Eck en Wiel, the nearest village. I headed back west to Eiland van Maurik. Here a broad bend in the Neder Rijn is cut off from the main course of the river by a sand deposit to form a lagoon, now supposedly a "haven for water and nature lovers."

But the gated recreational facility is crammed with RVs, hardly a place to appreciate nature. I went to the restaurant anyway and had a large pancake littered with bacon, cheese and tomato (€11.40). It was almost 10 when I got back to Het Dijkje. I had a shower. The bikers were all sitting around their tents with fires but I didn't feel like socializing. It was a very pleasant cool evening but there was nowhere to sit comfortably so I just went back to my little room, feeling blue, and slept. Continued ...

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