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.

(note: original date of this entry: June 9, 2013)

Dutch breakfast items
Copious breakfast at Henk & Truus Terheijden's place: cold cuts, butter, cheese, coffee, some kind of fruit nectar, one medium-boiled egg, a bowl of cherry preserve, various kinds of sliced bread and tiny tubes of pig liver paté. I signed into the log book and Truus took my photo. I noticed I am one of the only English speakers to hit Meijel. Truus speaks no English at all but she's perky and willing to deal with my rudimentary Dutch. I browsed a coffee table book on Meijel, which is right above the Groote Peel park I visited yesterday before striking west and looping back.

Henk and Truus, my hosts in Meijel

Famous asparagus
Underneath the highway, a dash of urban blight in the form of graffiti, then a long gently curving country road through vast fields of rectilinearly planted Christmas trees and shrubs, sugar beets and asparagus, the area's signature crop, planted in high mounds. Last night I had the celebrated white asparagus on my Turkish pizza, sitting in front of an unoccupied restaurant. The pizza was good but I didn't care much for the asparagus: overcooked and too soft. "White gold"? Not in my book.
Xmas in June

Beyond Koningslust, a motorcycle summit at a campground. On my way a dozen motorcycles pass me, including some unusual designs, with passenger seat behind driver, with sidecars. One slice of Dutch society is as into motorcycles as bicycles. I guess they're also the audience for blues festivals, such as at Ospel. These farmers need to cut loose now and then. Then I'm following a cobbled lane past sturdy brick homes with adjacent flower gardens. Wind a bit of an issue today though it's variable. Swallows, jackdaws and other winged creatures chirping in summertime.

I think the motorcyclists like to assert themselves by making noise: We're here dammit! 

Beginning to see how useful is the fietsknoop app. I am having a coffee at the homey Café Zaal Niens in Maasbree, and they have a wifi signal. I open the app and, not onoy does it show my location but the nearest knooppunten superimposed on the town map. An amazing tool for touring cyclists. It even tells you the weather and wind conditions. Sitting at a big table in front of the cafe is a group of mostly middle-aged male cyclists clad in green and black lycra. Other pairs or groups of more leisure-inclined cyclists drift by the cafe. Inside is a large wood-lined hall where groups of older men sit around playing cards.

Rondje Peel en Maas - Day 3

Maasbree appears to be an appendage of the Baarlo/Blerick/Venlo metropolitan area, home of Islam hater Geert Wilders. I can see that it might be a deeply conservative area bordering Germany. I see a volatile arrogance in the young men, like the ones hanging out in Lierop yesterday.

Almost to the Maas river (60 -> 59) but stopping at a pastoral bend in the LF to enjoy a salami and cheese sandwich that I prepared from today's abundant breakfast, chips and a Brand pilsener. While I was sitting there at point 60, a man with a racing bicycle sat down with me and started chatting me up in Dutch. When I displayed incomprehension he switched to English. He spoke of the wonderful fragrance of the forest as it rushed to make up for a cold inclement May, "like the smell of a woman." He had tattoos all over one arm and the slightly ridiculous attitude of the free thinker. Long wavy graying hair, probably around my age. He wanted to talk. Lives in Blerick, which is the Pest to Venlo's Buda. He seemed cut from the same cloth as Mario, that dude at the Den Bosch jazz festival, a self-styled eccentric who might have stepped out of a Rembrandt painting with his long flowing locks and Van Dyck beard. He had a taste for old rock 'n' soul. His name was Constant (as in Constantine).

Kessel to Beesel

I told him I was going to the Maas and he offered to show me a different way there. We went through the forest over dirt roads. It was nice. He told me he had lived 10 years in Den Haag, worked in agriculture around Venlo. We passed a small golf course. He said it wasn't his thing but he admired a golfer's sure drive to the green. We reached the river at a lookout point. He then guided me to the continuation of the route.

Return to Roermond

I continued down the river's west bank till I reached a car-bike ferry from Kessel to Beesel. The route then circled around Beesel where there were loads of cafes crowded with Sunday drinkers. The path on the east side of the Maas was better than the one on the west, a dirt and grass track that skirted the river. It then turned away into lush farmlands. It was fairly warm but clouds were moving in. The sun still warmed the swampy terrain through the clouds and wind. In the distance were the twin spires of Roermond.

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