Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 71--Finding the Hovenring...

...With the help of Mariella and Daniella. But, I'll get to that in a moment.

I left Beekse Bergen Safaricamp before most were awake. By the time I left the park, I had gone 3 miles! Like I said, it's a big place. In looking at my map, I realized I didn't have to go all the way into Hilvarenbeek. I have to say, the map I bought in Rotterdam has been invaluable! Basically, I just have to connect the route number dots. Since the signs are very good, it's pretty easy. 

This morning I was on the Van Gogh Route (in addition to it also being 25, as you can see by the sign below). As an aside, if I hadn't wanted to go to the Hovenring, I could have just stayed on LF13a. But, my second objective (after the Heinenoord Tunnel) was to ride on the Hovenring.

Anyway, back to Van Gogh. One would expect to see sunflowers on a route named Van Gogh. Here are the sunflowers I saw.
See? There's one!
Here's a little strip of them.

However, I did go by lots and lots of corn. Maybe this is Van Gogh's little known "Corn" period.
I'll have to look to see if he did some Corn paintings...because I sure didn't see many sunflowers!

Later, I came to an intersection, and I wasn't sure which way to go (one of the few times). About that time, four older guys (like 70s) came by on road bikes. I started to ask if they knew which way, but they rode by. Then they stopped and one guy came back. They said the way to go was the way they were going, and they would keep me with them. They asked what my average speed was. At that point, it was 10.7mph. But, I told them I could go faster than that. So we took off. Not only was I able to keep up, but I told them they could go faster if they wanted. I was even able to get a photo of the two guys in front of me.
I think the way they went was probably a bit longer, but it was faster with me drafting, and it was fun to ride with them. At one point we made a turn. The one guy said if I wanted to go slower, I just had to stay on the road I was on until the end. I said I was doing fine. I stayed with them until they stopped for a break. By then, I was on the way I needed to go, so I continued. I told them I felt like a donkey amongst 4 racehorses. I did confess that I race at home, so I'm used to riding in a group.

I continued to connect the dots. As I got closer to Eindhoven, I started to wonder if I would find the Hovenring. I thought I might see route signs (like for the Heinenoord), but I didn't. I was following Route 18. At one point, it turned. I stopped just as a gal came around the corner with her dog. I asked her if she knew where the Hovenring was. She did, but it was difficult to give directions because the roundabouts had tricky turns. She said her aunt could look on the computer, and her house was not far. So, we went to her house. On the way, I asked her name. It was Mariella. I told her I knew another Mariella (Christian's granddaughter), but she was younger. This Mariella is 26 (same age as my oldest son). As we were walking, I asked Mariella if she had time, could she ride with me to the Hovenring (or close enough so I could get there)? She said she could do that. 

We took the dog back to the house. I met her aunt, and her cousin, Daniella (on holiday from Taiwan). Mariella asked Daniella if she would like to go with us. Daniella didn't look so sure. Then I asked if she would like to come show an American the Hovenring. It would not be something one gets to do everyday! She agreed to come. The three of us set off. It really wasn't too far, but Mariella was right, there were some tricky turns that I'm sure I would not have done correctly.

They took me within view, and I thanked them and took their photo.
Daniella and Mariella (thanks again!)

And there it was, the Hovenring!!! 

It's called the Hovenring because it is above the intersection for the towns of Eindhoven, Veldhoven, and Meerhoven. I rode around it twice (probably would have done more, but I knew I had at least another 50 miles to go today). It's really quite cool, and I think it is lit at night. Curiously, Route 18 did lead to the Hovenring. But it was more fun riding there with Mariella and Daniella! 

The next route number I needed was right on the other exit toward Eindhoven. I, again, connected the dots to make my way through the rather large city of Eindhoven. At one point I was getting a little worried. I seemed to be doing a lot of snaking around. But, it all worked out, and I made it through without a single wrong turn!

I was back out in the countryside. I tried to take a short cut to Lierop, and it may have actually been shorter, but I had to ask the way a couple of times. One guy I asked was from England. His name was Owen. He took my picture. He was all kitted out. It seemed like there was a race or something going on. I had seen other cyclists with a follow-car. And it looked like there were corner marshalls. Anyway, after Owen's directions, I was back on LF13a. I could stay on this all the way to Venlo.

Here's part of LF13a. It's not all pavement!

As I got closer to Venlo, I asked the Garmin for camping. There was a place nearby. It's a small farm camping place. The gal said they don't get any people other than Dutch here. It's quite nice and only cost 7.50€!

Oh, on the way here, about 100 kids on bikes went by. Most had orange caps on.
I didn't get a chance to ask what they were.

Tonight is my last night in Holland. I can see why it is used as a model for exemplary cycling infrastructure.

Total miles today: 73 (but, you know, they're all flat)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Day 70--A Visitor in the Night

Last night while I was sleeping, I was woken up by a strange kind of squeaky snuffling sound. It was right near my head (but outside my tent). I listened for awhile, then couldn't bear the suspense any longer. It wasn't going away, so I had to see what it was. I opened my tent rainfly, and shined my headlamp outside. At first I couldn't see anything, but I could still hear the sound. Then I shined the light at the corner of my tent. I could just make out something brown and small. I tried to aim my camera, but it didn't turn out. I got out of my tent, but couldn't find anything. I went back to sleep. A while later, I was, once again awakened by the same sound as before. This time I could tell it was a little hedgehog. I tried again to get a photo. You could only see that it was something. Again, he went away, and I went back to sleep. Then, for the third time, I was awakened. This time he was just outside the door of my tent. I finally got a photo.
Isn't he cute?

He just sat there making his little snuffling sound. I told him he could go now, I got a good picture. Still, he stayed. Finally, I just zipped up my tent and went back to sleep. I suppose he wandered off at some point. It's funny, I had seen several dead ones in England. I always wanted to see one alive. They are nocturnal, so I figured my chances weren't so good. Ha! Check Hedgehog off the list!

I slept a little longer this morning. Partly due to my Hedgehog encounters, but also because I wanted to wait until the reception opened at 9:00 so I could post the last three blogs. I was waiting at reception at 9:00. She was a little late, but I got everything uploaded, and was ready to go by 9:30. I asked the lady about a ferry across the Oude Maas that was on my map. She said yes, there was a ferry. Great! That meant I didn't have to backtrack to the Heinenoord Tunnel. 

I rode to the ferry arriving at 9:45 only to see that the next ferry was at 12:30. But, lucky me, there was a gal there who was waiting for her husband, and a large group of cyclists. Her husband had made a special arrangement with the boat captain to ferry them across at 10:00. The gal said there would probably be room for me too. Another couple of cyclists also showed up. We hoped we would all get on. 10:00 came and went. The group of about 20 cyclists had shown up, but the boat was still sitting on the other side of the river. The bike group leader called the captain. The boat came across at 10:20. We were all able to get on. It held 60 people. It cost me and the other couple 1.50€. We happily paid.

Here comes the boat from Putterhoek.

The fietsclub of mostly women. It was a surprise where they were going for their ride today.

I got off the boat and continued following the LF12a route. I caught up to the other couple, and rode with them until we went different directions. It was very easy following the route. There are a zillion routes, but they all have numbers. So, all I have to do is know which numbers I need to follow. The only problem I had this morning was after going through another tunnel under the river.
Pretty cool, but not quite as cool as the Heinenoord.

When I came out of the tunnel, I could tell by the map I needed to turn, and follow the river for a bit. As I came up to the river, there were no signs, but I continued on. I came to a point where they were doing construction on the dike, but a road turned anyway, so I took the road. I came to an intersection. Knowing which direction I needed to go, I turned right. There was a bike lane. I followed the bike lane, and ended up doing a big circle. There had been a worker van when I first turned. I ended up coming back to that van. Sooooo....I went back to where I had come out of the tunnel. This time I continued straight. Aha! There was a LF12a sign! I followed the sign. It took me to the other side of the tunnel road, and back to...the dike. Yes, I got back to the dike, and the route sign said to turn left, which led me right back where I started from! Now I had done a nice figure 8! I was stumped. I suspected the problem was the construction. I thought maybe I would try to ride through it, but a man (who had now seen me ride by for the third time) stopped me to ask where I was was trying to go. I told him, and he gave me an alternative, to avoid the construction. Nice guy! Later on, I was able to help another couple riding from the opposite direction, having the same route-finding problem.

From there I had no problems. The signs were, once again, clear. I made my way to Oosterhout, then Dongen, and onto Tilburg. In Tilburg I spotted the red and white bike route signs for Hilvarenbeek. I was following them, but ended up having a problem when the sign told me to go right, which I did, but then told me to go back the way I had come. Since Hilvarenbeek wasn't in the middle of the two signs, something was amiss. I tried a couple of other ways, but finally ended up turning on the Garmin. I turned it off once I started seeing the signs again.

Before resorting to the Garmin, I stopped at a grocery store that was on my back and forth route. I got some dinner stuff, and also got what I thought was some chocolate milk. Not exactly. I decided there is no such thing as chocolate milk in Holland. This, although packaged in a milk carton, was actually pudding. I chugged it down anyway, telling myself it was a really thick milkshake! 

When I planned this part of the trip, I found this holiday park called Beekse-Bergen SafariPark. Well, it is like the San Diego Wild Animal Park of Holland. It's huge! There are "Jungalows" (bungalows), and tent areas designated by animal names (I'm in the "Colobusaap"--Colubus monkey). At the Africa Club there is an indoor pool, restaurant, and supermarket. There are also two beaches for swimming. Then there's the Safari Park. It costs extra, but it's like a wild animal park, I think. Since it is the high season, the place is pretty well packed. It is a great place for families. It's a shame I'm only here for one night!

That's it for today. Not so exciting, but I did have one of my highest average speeds of 10.7mph! Woo Hoo!

Total miles today: 50.7

Day 69--Heinenoord Tunnel...Check, and...Check Again!

When I was planning my route across Holland, I had two things I wanted to see/do. Today, I did the first one. Before I get to that excitement, there were a few other interesting things today.

First I had to return to LF 2a. Once that was accomplished, I followed it all the way to Rotterdam. I passed a number of windmills.
Here's a nice one.
This one was actually turning!

I came to an intersection where the LF 2a sign said to go up and over this bridge. So I did that, but on the other side, there was no sign saying which way to turn. Usually, if there is no sign, that means to continue straight. I went straight, but it was wrong. However, I rode along the Olympic Rowing Center Course. It's about 2000m long. Here's a photo of a boat in action.
Years ago I rowed in 8-oared shells on Lake Washington for a couple of months one summer.

After getting to the end of the rowing course, and not seeing any bike directional signs, I turned around and went back to the last sign. On the way, I saw several bikes on one of the other options. When I got back, I hadn't missed a sign, there just wasn't one. Logically, I chose to go the way I had seen the other bikes going. Also, I could see Rotterdam in the distance, so I knew I had to head that way (the route along the rowing course also headed toward Rotterdam...for awhile).

I finally saw another sign for LF 2a. I went up and over a bridge over one of the many canals. On the other side was a family of three kids, mom, and dad. Everyone had panniers on their bikes. I stopped to talk to them because I thought it was great these kids (I'm guessing all under 10) were bike touring. Mom said they were going to Grandma's. They had two more days to go, and had been riding for 3 weeks! I told the parents I wished I had been touring when my boys were young. I asked if I could take a photo.
Pretty cool family!

I came into the outskirts of Rotterdam shortly after leaving the biking family. Since I had not been able to see Amsterdam, I had decided to see Rotterdam (exchanging one "dam" for another). Holland being the land of biking awesomeness, I just flollowed the signs to the "Centrum". I went to the Tourist Info Center. I was able to get a great map with all the bike routes from Rotterdam to Venlo. 

From there I wanted to eat some lunch. I went out to the street, looked to my right, and what did I see? Subway, of course! Since I hadn't checked off a Holland Subway yet, I went there for some lunch. I was not overly impressed. No spinach, avocado, or even shredded cheese. But, it's done. No need for anymore Holland Subways.

After lunch I rode to the Euromast. It's a big tower thing.
I'm sure, for a price, one can go up in it. 

From there, I followed my new map to the Nieuw Maas. It's a pretty big river. There were several ships ploughing their way through. There were some very interesting buildings on the other side.

One would definately have to pick the right elevator!

I rode over the bridge to the other side.
Of course, a totally separate path for bikes.

Now I was heading to the Heinenoord Tunnel. Just on the other side of the bridge, I saw the first sign for the tunnel (they make it so easy!).
All I had to do was follow the signs!

I made it to the tunnel. At first it was a little confusing because the only thing working to get down to the tunnel was the escalator (the elevator wasn't working). I don't think Betsy would do so well on an escalator. But, then I saw some bikes coming from the road below. I went back and found how they got to the tunnel. There are actually two tunnels. One for bikes, and the other for things like tractors and motorcycles. Bikes can't go in the other tunnel. But that road, led to the other tunnel. I started to go through it, but a worker guy told me to go through an opening in a fence to get to the bike tunnel. 
Tractor tunnel.
Bike tunnel!
It was way cool...literally! When I came out the other side, my glasses fogged up.
See, you should be able to go up the elevator, but both elevators at each end were not working.

I came out the other side and headed toward the town of Heinenoord. There was a camping place there. Except, when I got there (I had the address and everything), there was no such camping place. I stopped and got some groceries anyway. 

I decided to just head the way I would be going tomorrow, which meant going back through the tunnel. As I was approaching the tunnel, I saw an info map on one of the other bike routes. I went and had a look. It showed a camping place not far on the same side of the river. I followed the bike path, but again, no camping place. However, I saw a camping store. I was able to get a real repair coupling for my tent (now two more sections can break and I'll be ready!), and I asked them if there was camping nearby. The only one they could think of was back across the river. That was okay, as I would be going that way anyway. So, I went back to the tunnel, and went through it again (still pretty awesome)! 

I stayed near the river and found myself on the route I need for tomorrow. There were even bike signs to the camping place! 

So, I accomplished one of my objectives for cycling in Holland...twice in one day!

A Question/Observation

Biking in Holland has been everything everyone said it would be. Great cycling infrastructure, and very flat! However, I was talking with the Dutch couple that I camped with last night. They were surprised to hear I had biked in Ireland. The husband's parents live in Galway. When I asked if they had ever cycled in Ireland, they no, they would never cycle in Ireland! Too many hills, and too dangerous! That got me thinking. I wonder if there are many Dutch who cycle in Holland, but won't go elsewhere because the cycling infrastructure of many other countries (especially Ireland and Great Britain--not even to mention the US!) is not as developed as in The Netherlands? I know there are Dutch who cycle the world, but what about the average Dutch cyclist? I can see where they could not want to cycle where there is not the same infrastructure. They seldom have to cycle with cars. To have to contend with traffic could be frightening, I suppose. So, even though the cycling here is fabulous, there is that one possible downside for the Dutch. For me, however, it's awesome!

Here's a parting shot for today.
This is what they call "cattle guards". I like "wild roosters" better.

Day 68--Raw Sewage Does Not Sound Fun

I woke up this morning, after a wonderfully peaceful night's sleep, to...rain. I packed up my things, and took them downstairs. Cornelius was up too, and provided me with a bowl, spoon, and some juice and milk. I wanted to eat my own muesli because I have a big bag that I need to eat. 

I fiddled around, hoping the rain would pass. Nope, wasn't going to happen. Jonas said it was supposed to rain all day. Since I couldn't put it off any longer, I put on my rain gear and loaded Betsy. Olga was so nice to hold an umbrella over me, and help me carry my things out! 

The route to Amsterdam was just the street next to the house. Off I went, halfway wishing I was Olga, and getting to stay indoors today. But, no--at least it wasn't really cold.

I was following the bike signs to Amsterdam. The thunder and lightning was all around. The path had lots of standing water.
Rain rain go away!

As I was riding along, another bike tourist came toward me from the other direction. He stopped and told me that, near Amsterdam, there was lots of flooding and sewage was coming up out of the drains. I thought, well, that's just delightful! As I continued riding, a different plan started to formulate in my head. I decided Amsterdam would not be such a great place to visit today. I'm not a fan of raw sewage. I planned to ride until the next intersection, then turn and skirt south of Amsterdam. I did come into Amsterdam, but only the suburbs.
On the way there was a place where the path was flooded so bad that every pedal stroke my feet went into the water. At one point, it was difficult to pedal. I didn't want to stop, because I'd have to put my foot down in probably about 8 inches of water!

I finally came to some of the red and white bike directional signs. Instead of continuing to "sewage-land", I turned right and headed for the southern part of Amsterdam. I had to use the Garmin at one point, but only until I saw the signs. I would look at my map, see what the next town south was, then follow the bike route signs to it (or until I'd find a sign for another town further along the way). This was working pretty good. As I was coming into Alsmeer, I didn't see any signs, so I asked the Garmin the way to the next town. Unfortunately, it took me first to a bridge that was closed for maintenance. Then when I didn't go that way, it recalculated to a road that had a locked gate. Finally, the third try worked. And, I saw a sign for LF 2a. I looked at my directions I'd written to get from Amsterdam to Heinenoord. Sure enough, I needed to be on LF 2a! I had no idea where I was in the directions, but it didn't really matter. 

Then I came through one town, and somehow lost the route. So, it was back to following signs to the next town. When I came to Alphen aan den Rijn, I found LF 2a again. Woo Hoo! I rode along a narrow path by a canal. There were a few sheep along the way.

By now, not only had the rain stopped, but the sun was coming out. It was even getting quite warm! I took my rain pants and jacket off. At one point, I stopped to finally take my waterproof socks off. As I was sitting on a bench along the path, a man rode up and starting talking to me (first in Dutch). He asked if I was looking for camping. At that point, I had been thinking I would stop at the next camping place I saw, or check the Garmin. I told him I was looking for camping. He said to follow him and he would get me going on the way to a very nice mini-camping site, Polderflora. I found it with no problems. It is, indeed, a very nice place. It's a small farm with chickens, sheep, and a pig too! It's very clean too. The weather is now beautiful (although it rained very hard here too this morning).
There are couches, and even a TV in here.


My tent through the flowers. 

So, as I am typing this, who shows up? Alphonso, the man who told me how to get here. He is quite the character! We had a nice chat (even though he says his English is very bad). He has left now, so I think I'll go cook my dinner.

Here's a parting shot of a Holland the rain.

Total miles today: just 43, but I am much further than I planned.

Day 67--A Night With the Dutch!

Olga and I headed out at 10:00 this morning. The route, LF 1b, that we would follow to Haarlem was right next to the camping place! I also discovered there was a great grocery store directly across the street from the camping. I'm telling myself it was probably closed yesterday when I went in search of food!

The Dutch have got cycle routing perfected! It is really quite amazing! Completely separated paths, with excellent signage. This being Sunday, I think there were, perhaps, a few more cyclists out for the day rides. But, Olga and I also saw many many bike tourers. 

We followed LF 1b which is also the North Sea Route (the same that I followed in Norway). We rode through the dunes along the Coast.

Due to a detour in Den Haag, we ended up going up some stairs which was rather difficult, but part of them had a ramp for the bike. We just worked our way back to the Strand. 

I saw a few of these, but don't know what they are.

We rode at a comfortable pace. The route through the dunes is not "pancake" flat, but just some rolling hills (like the dunes).

It was fun having someone to ride with for the day. And, it was special for Olga as it was her last day.

We came to the end of our Coastal riding at Zandvoort. From there we turned inland toward Haarlem. Olga had Jonas' address, so I put it into the Garmin and we rode straight there. Olga had said I should come with her because maybe Jonas could tell me of a camping place.  

We arrived at 4:00. I was immediately welcomed into Cornelius, Caroline, and Jonas' home. Olga and I left our bikes out front, but then Jonas said we should move them to the back. He asked if I was staying for the night. I said I didn't want to impose and would be happy to go to a camping place. He said it was no problem. I accepted, and have had the most delightful evening with Olga, Jonas, and his parents. They all speak French (Caroline just retired from being a French teacher), which is good for Olga. They also speak English, which is good for me!

We had a great dinner! I learned that tulips did not originate in Holland. They came from Turkey (granted, it was a long time ago). They said there are many fields of tulips in the area. I saw these flowers from afar, but they are not tulips (not in summer).

After dinner we put my camera on the timer and took a group photo.

This was a most wonderful first day of cycling in Holland! Many thanks to Olga, Jonas, Caroline, and Cornelius. You are all welcome to come to Washington anytime!

Interesting sculpture.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 66--Part 2--Holland!

Remember the couple I met at the ferry terminal in Harwich? Well, I did see them on the boat, and as we were getting ready to disembark, I asked if they knew of a camping place. Roy knew of one nearby that was on the way they were going. He said him and Leslie would show me. Cool! 
Coming into Hoek Van Holland Port 
Does anything about this photo make anyone else nervous? I heard a man behind me say, "I can't watch!" At one point, the guy was holding two kids!

Open sesame! (That's Roy and Leslie)

As we exited the ferry, Leslie was having problems with her chain. We stopped and Roy fixed it, getting his hands thoroughly greasy in the process. I gave him a Grease Monkey Wipe to clean his hands. We continued on out of the Port area.
Woo Hoo!

Now I go back to riding on the right, kilometers, Euros, and I lost an hour (back to 9 hours ahead of home). Also, no more English as the primary language. 

I got to Camping Hoek van Holland (cost 12€), set up my tent, took the bags off Betsy, and went in search of a grocery store. I finally found a Lidl store and replenished my food.

I was lubing Betsy's chain when another gal came into the tent area on her bike. She is Olga, from France. This is her first bike tour. She is also going to Amsterdam tomorrow, so we are going to ride together. We are going to follow the Coast to Haarlem. Haarlem is only about 10 km from Amsterdam. It will be fun to have another gal to ride with.

Now I'm off to bed. Here's what I'm listening to from my tent.
Pretty nice goat house!