Biking Days 1 and 2 (Pictures Forthcoming)

by gregbigelow on 6 September 2010

Jenny and I decided to bike from Amsterdam to Maastricht, a total distance of around 270 kilometers. We were equipped with 3-speed Amsterdam bikes. They were rough and weary but tough and full of heart. Several days before leaving, my gear shifting device broke, reducing my trusty bike to a single gear. Fortunately, the Netherlands is a very flat place.

Day 1: The Day of the Hard Start

1. Hastily printed off some directions to Maastricht about 10 minutes before setting off on our journey. After 2 hours of biking, we had failed to get out of Amsterdam. Lost and confused and behind schedule. We decide to take a train to Utrecht, cutting out 45 kilometers of our 90 kilometer journey for the day. After about 30 minutes biking through Utrecht, we pick up the trail and are off. The sweet taste of belated success.

2. Realize that the rest of the Netherlands is completely different from Amsterdam. The wisdom of the bike-journey is reaffirmed, as it allows us a richer view of the country we had just spent the last month in. We see lots of farms and ride on two ferries. There are cute houses with baby-goats in the yard. They are adorable.

3. I don’t like riding on roads next to cars. They are too fast and loud. Nevertheless, this is the best bicycle infrastructure I have ever experienced. There are almost always large, dedicated bike lanes. Navigation is made extremely easy with lots of signposts. It will nevertheless take us another day or two to fully understand how to read these signs. This was our fault and the result of a lack of preparation.

4. Life on the road is good. We make it to the city of Tiel about 2 hours behind schedule. The former art teacher whose bed and breakfast we stay at says that he grew up on a tiny farm way out in the country. To him, Tiel was the “big city.” This is a fairly generous characterization, though the town centrum was quite active and there was a large HEMA located there. A big small city.

DAY 2: The Strange Day

1. We are out in the farm lands now. At points things get a bit creepy. We half-joke about Children of the Corn. We bike and bike and there is no one else there. Occasionally, we pass by a cluster of 3 or so farm-houses. They have massive gym equipment in the enormous front yards for children that are not seen. There is a person with a pitchfork standing on the side of the road. The clouds are too low in the sky for comfort. We get lost. Bike in circles. How do we escape this land of corn and dairy products?

2. In the groove of biking, begin meditating on agricultural in the Netherlands. Who owns and controls the farms? What percentage of GDP is accounted for by agricultural? Make note to consult wikipedia and learn more about the Dutch farming industry. I have since abandoned these plans.

3. We eventually leave the farmlands. Previously, we had the road to ourselves. We are now surrounded by what we believe to be elderly biking German couples on holiday. They are everywhere. Understandably so. We pass through beautiful woods, breaking out into meadows where we real-live sheep dogs at work. The sunlight bursts through the forest canopy – the world is new and clean. We are happy to have escaped the confusing and creepy farmlands.

4. But the weirdness of the farmlands was soon outdone. The first sign of a disturbance in normalcy was the sight of a family of Gingers dressed in green neon biking across a field. Are these people real, we ask ourselves? Upon closer inspection, their hair was painted red. Probably off to a local football game, we think. But as we travel onwards, there are more of these characters. Some are biking while others are loitering around in the woods. They don’t seem to be doing anything… Nor do they seem particularly happy. And unlike their comrades, they aren’t going anywhere. I think they are wearing capes. Most likely wizards.

Only 15 minutes after passing the last group of these flamboyant, somber magicians (saw perhaps 30 – 40 in total, but can’t really be sure…) we encountered The Suits. As I approached them, I first noticed their bright purple suits and top-hats. They look like a fun group, I think to myself. But as I get ready to crack a smile in their direction, I get second thoughts, worried that perhaps they were part of a funeral procession, or something similar. As they come into detail, the reality seems even more horrific. There are at least ten of them. Their dress is best described as similar to that of Johnny Depp in the role of Willy Wonka. They have canes as well. As we pass, one of them shoots us a maniacal grin. I look straight ahead, eager to distance myself and what I can only assume is some kind of diabolical croquet league or fox-hunting organization.

At the next town, I asked the bartenders of some kind of punk pub who these people might be. They had no clue but their best guess was a mumbled reply about camping Scots. The Netherlands can be a quirky place.

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