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.

Ruhrpott Uke Club has a special guest. 

(note: original date of this entry: July 15, 2012)
After the workshop/song circle Quintus N Sachs, the organizer of the event, drove us back to his home near the town of Voerde. We met his wife Claudia and a friend of theirs, a woman from Hamburg. We had a drink in the rear garden, then Del went to bed (at 8 pm). I sat with Quintus and Claudia and chatted till dusk (10 or so). Claudia lit some candles around the garden. For part of the time Quintus occupied himself pruning branches of grapes off an arbor. With a wool cap covering his bald pate he looked every inch the gentleman farmer. We discussed the possibility of holding a uke fest in Oberhausen, or Wesel (up the Rhine a ways) in the future. Quintus, I was surprised to learn, is actually Dutch, from the Drenthe region.

Del Rey and Quintus N Sachs: Hear the train a comin'
In the morning Quintus gave us a wakeup call. Del brought me coffee. Then Quintus brought us nice fresh rolls with mint-infused butter and homemade strawberry jam with peppercorns. He then accompanied us by bike to the train station which was in Friedrichsfeld. That was nice of him. The ticket (which I purchased at a travel agency below the station) cost €30, which was nearly as much as a discounted ticket from Amsterdam to Oberhausen. Quintus came up to the platform with us. Del played train songs on her uke and Quintus sang along: Mystery Train, Freight Train, Folsom Prison Blues. Quintus has a good voice, which is to be expected, as he leads several choir group. (He is also a licensed sports masseur.)

We took the train to Oberhausen, then the ICE to Arnhem, Holland. We sat in the front of the ICE (which was completely full) so that we could look over the shoulder of the conductor and at the tracks and oncoming trains.

Arnhem to Tiel (west half by train)
We got off at Arnhem around 1:30. A huge station. By now the sky looked overcast and steel gray. We took a bridge over the tracks and turned west on Utrechtsestraat, then skirted the Neder-Rijn down to Osterbeek, as I'd done before. Then the rain started coming down, hard enough that we both donned our rain gear. It kept raining hard as we made it down to the ferry to Driel (€0.75 per fiets), a small boat manned by an old geezer and an inquisitive young man who sold tickets. It was a pleasant crossing. On the south side of the river the rain subsided, then started coming down again. This time it did not let up. It rained hard all our way west along the Neder-Rijn and there was continuous auto traffic. Large trucks sprayed us in our faces as they passed. Yes, the green pastures leading down to the river were pretty but it was hard to appreciate them being pelted by rain. Also, I was finding my new Di Blasi laborious to pedal and as a result proceeded slower than Del. Before turning south toward point 53, we stopped under some dripping trees to eat our sandwiches. The rain kept pouring down.

Ready for the river

The country road to 53 was lined with old trees and there was little traffic. I realized I had gone this way (in the opposite direction) on the first day of my Rondje Betuwe trip when I saw a lagoon where I had observed a pretty duck. (Then it was hot and sunny). Past point 18 we came across Hemmen-Dodewaard station and saw that it was on the line to Tiel, our destination for the evening. Del suggested we catch the next train. We were drenched and she was tired of trying not to exceed my snail's pace on the Di Blasi. I was disappointed: the bike journey I'd been so looking forward to turned out to be a bust on the first day. Continued ...

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