Monday, April 30, 2012

Netherlands - Water, Rain and Arnhem

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45 Miles, Wednesday, August 17

We left on a wonderful tailwind, making our way along the narrow dikes between man made lakes. Brick houses with thatched roofs or red tile stand on the peninsulas, often water-bound on three sides. Each domicile has a bridge over a small canal to the road. Boats are moored beside each driveway. Andy said, “Your dad would go nuts. He wouldn’t know whether to go to work in the morning or go fishing.” I smiled. How true. My father is constantly in my thoughts when we’re pedaling beside water.

By mid-afternoon we cycled through downtown Utrecht. A storm hit and we holed up beneath the awning of a bicycle store, inspecting their wares. It’s interesting to see what bicycle equipment is sold in other countries. In Nederland there are so many types of racks and packs - likely because of the number of cyclists. Repair work tends to be cheaper too. In Den Haag my back wheel was re-trued and a spoke replaced, all for only $10 USD.

Typical morning drying out routine - if we can.

Andy and I dodged showers for the rest of the day, eventually settling into a nice campground in a forest. Tall poplars, oak, and locusts thrash in the gail while we make couscous beneath a sink shelter. When our friends claim they’re jealous of our trip, its days like this that I’d trade to be in the comfort of home.

55 Miles, Thursday, August 18

Under partial showers we head off. There are more forests in eastern Holland – it’s a pleasure to be back among the woods. 

Photo credit: Panaramio
As we tool along the fietspad (bike path) we often hear a put-put noise. Too soft a purr for a moped, it takes me a few moments to recognize the sound. By then a bicycle passes, but not by pedal power. A small engine is attached to the rear wheel. I can’t help but chuckle. Motor-assisted bikes!

Motorcycles are often allowed on the paths. By the time we hear them creep beside us they’re cruising by. Andy and I are surprised and end up wavering – a move that is both unnerving and dangerous.

Frostberg Bridge, Arnhem. Photo credit: globenotes

By noon we reach Arnhem – a city famous for the movie “A Bridge Too Far.” This September the city celebrates 50 years since the British army defeated the Germans. As we passed over the wide river on the edge of the city we thought we spied old army bunkers built into the banks. The bunkers have since been crowded by a bike path, fast traffic, and weeds. A dredging machine spouted sand into a container on the river bank while a sleek tourist boat docked on the waterfront. The old and the new coexist on this ancient city on the Rhine.

By mid-afternoon my energy lagged. I shifted into an easier gear. Andy mentioned the incline. Used to the flat Dutch countryside, the hills had snuck up on us.
Photo credit: I am Expat
At the crest of a rise, we followed the path through dense forest. Ferns sprang up in the undergrowth, their pungent fragrance reminding me of Oregon’s forest. After a couple miles we arrived in blessed sun-filled open farmland. Unlike the lower wetlands, farmers in this region irrigate crops.

Tonight we’re camping in WFT, a large campground of mainly permanent sites surrounding a small lake. The sky is powder blue, promising a crisp night. Andy studies the German section of our language book. We should be at the border tomorrow.

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