Peddling our way through Holland
Thursday, 5 p.m. – Friday, July 7 Welcome to Holland
The overnight ferry ride from England to the Netherlands across the North Sea was a smooth, quiet one. We had a cabin which was larger than any other we’ve had and had a window for light and ambiance. After breakfast on Friday, the 7th, we walked out on deck and discovered to our utter delight that at 0830 and traveling at 20 miles per hour, it was already warmer as we approached Holland than it had been for the past 5 weeks in England. This is us smiling!!!
The ship landed just east of Amsterdam. We navigated our way from the ship to Haarlem, an old canal (of course) city about 15 Km west and a little south of Amsterdam. Our Warmshowers host, Gerben met us for coffee in the “big church square” then led us on a bike tour around the old city for an hour or so looking at the sites. It was such a pleasant sunny day. Back to his and Leonie’s apartment along a canal for a typical Dutch dinner and some route planning for the trip to Germany. With Gerben’s help and experience, we decided to take a route almost due north to the coast and then ride the 32 Km dike to get to the northeastern part of Holland.
Sat. July 8 Haarlem – Amsterdam – Herrhugowaard
Gerben and Leonie made us a Dutch meal for breakfast, and we were off to see the Netherlands. It was supposed to be a fairly short day, avoiding the madness of Amsterdam, but as we were about to cross on a free ferry that would have gotten us north of Amsterdam, Ed suggested we divert the 15 Km east into Amsterdam and look for a flea market we’d heard of. To that point we had made good time and, if we had stuck to our plan we would have gotten to our destination by mid-afternoon so we rode into Amsterdam. It is a huge city. It was so congested and teeming with people both on foot and bicycle, that it about drove us to madness. It was a good reminder why we avoid cities when we are on our bikes.
We did not find the flea market or the route across the water that was closest to the center of Amsterdam, so we retraced our steps and added another 15 kms. to our journey. We headed north after the free ferry and after another 20 mile ride around due to a missed turn and a lake in our way to the course we should have taken, we made it to our Airbnb host’s home outside of Herrhugowaard at 8:20 pm. The day was a total of 98 Km. instead of the 50 or so that we originally planned. Our host Marianna was very kind and made us a wonderful dinner of spaghetti with a mushroom sauce so we wouldn’t have to go back into the town and find food. At this point we were very happy to eat, visit awhile, and hit the hay. Despite all of the hassles and wrong turns and added kms. we did see some beautiful sights for which Holland is known.
Sunday July 9 Herrhugowaard to Den Oever at the North Sea
What a beautiful day, both riding and the weather. The whole day was on bike paths through the farm country and very small villages along water courses. About 11 a.m., we stopped at a coffee house and adjoining museum that was choked full of old motors/engines and everything else you can imagine. The man who restored the motors, etc. gave us an hour’s personal tour. 40% of the motors now run. He cranked up (literally) several of them for us to see, hear and appreciate.
It was terrific. We were the only people there. The loft in the building had other non-motorized exhibits including woodworking projects and workshop of a very talented woodworker
that had Ed drooling as well as cars,
everything from A to Z from a life gone by. He had dozens of old sewing machines, tools, irons…you name it. A fabulous collection, and you could tell it was a labor of love.
After a day of 45 Km we reached the coastal fishing village of Den Oever and our Pension Wadderzee. It was about 10 steps from the sea and the dike we’d be riding on tomorrow to cross from one land mass to another, both in Holland. We asked our host Netty if there was a place we could do a load of laundry in a real washer for the 1st time in 5 weeks. She said she’d do it for us and voila, we felt and smelled great again. While Ed worked on getting the pictures on the blog, Maggie sat outside and visited with Gerd, another cyclist staying at the pension. Gerd (80 yrs. old) and his wife Marianne were from northern Germany and were touring on their e-bikes.
Gerd had many suggestions of what route we should take, where to cross the border, and what we should not miss on our way to the mouth of the Elbe river north of Hamburg. We poured over maps with Gerd then headed to bed around midnight.
Monday, July 10, 2017 Den Oever to Bolswaard
We gathered at breakfast and continued the planning with Gerd and Marianne. We were all crossing the 32 Km dike today but they had forgotten to plug in the batteries to their E bikes, so we took off without them. Before leaving though we took pictures of each other and exchanged our personal information.
They invited us to stay with them when we pass their area next week. They live very close to the North Sea cycle route in the very northwest corner of Germany.
We were all anxious about the possibility of strong headwinds crossing the dike which divides the North Sea and provides a short cut between two sections of Holland. The North Sea is on both sides of the dike/causeway for 30 kilometers.. As it turned out though, our fears were unfounded because the winds didn’t appear, and the day just kept getting warmer and more lovely.
When we got to the far side we stopped for lunch and watched as a foal, who could not have been more than a few days old mimicked his mother.
Tonight we’re at another Airbnb in the center of Bolswaard. Our host, Cees gave us a walking tour of the old village
which ended with coffee together along the canal on the main street. Ed labored for nearly 2 hours in their back yard cleaning 5 weeks of grime off our bike gears. Clean clothes and clean bikes. Life really is grand!
Tuesday, July 11, 2017 Bolswaard to Drachten
We woke up about 12:15 a.m. to the sound of the wind and rain. By the time we got up the wind and rain had stopped, and only the clouds remained from the storm. We had breakfast and sat around for the better part of an hour with our hosts, Cees and Bernadette who have been very nice and helpful. Cees had been a merchant boat captain, all over the world before retiring in order to take care of Bernadette who had a stroke when she was only 51. We said our goodbyes and took off. Before we got out of town we stopped at a bike shop to get some wax lube and to see what we could do about our piercingly squeaky front brakes. The shop owner suggested alcohol either to clean the wheel sides or to dull the pain of hearing the high pitched whine when the front brakes were applied. There was a tailwind most of the day with periods of filtered sun. Holland terrain continues to be absolutely flat with many water storage laterals. No windmills seen today but some picturesque homes and gardens. The country is dotted with small villages and surrounded by farm land. Houses tend to be stereotypical Dutch, most with flowers in the front yard and steep roofs which provide standing room in the bedrooms since the houses are often very narrow. The Dutch are friendly people and it’s very easy to engage with them.
We got in to Drachten around 3:30 and watched the 10th stage of the Tour de France with Dutch commentary. Dinner of Dutch pancakes at a place recommended by our hosts, Jelte and Aatfe then back to the house for a glass of wine with them.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017 Drachten to Groningen
It rained during the night and was raining when we got up. We had a very nice breakfast and procrastinated as long as we could before taking off at about 9:50 in full raingear. The rain remained light and steady through our morning coffee break, then got nasty with strong gusts of wind. We got to Groningen at about 2:30, just as the rain had stopped. It was still cool and windy so we camped out at a coffee house and watched the Tour de France for an hour+ to kill time until our 4 p.m. check in. Our Pension is centrally located in the old town.
Our room is on the second floor which is up a narrow steep staircase which is typical of older dwellings in Holland. Groningen is a university town. Students are everywhere. Very few cars, but bicycle traffic is very heavy and can be dangerous as no one uses their bell to let you know when they are turning or passing.
Our room with en suite bathroom had one slight problem. The toilet did not flush completely. There is no maintenance person on staff so although we could shower and wash up in the bathroom, we used the toilet down the hall. We had a picnic in the room and worked on the blog. When we were done we watched the last hour of the movie “Jaws”. It was in English with Dutch subtitles.
Thursday, July 13, 2017 Groningen to Nieuweschans
Another long day with a few wrong turns that added about 15 Kms. to our journey. The villages in the north of Holland came a little less frequently than their southern neighbors. The farms were noticeably larger with fields stretching as far as the eye can see.
as were the homes and barns as we got closer to the border with Germany. The dialect has gotten more Germanic as has the food on the menu…meat, not so good for us. The Bar/B&B at which we are spending the night
has no dinner meals on the menu that do not include meat as the prime ingredient.
It did not rain today, nor did it threaten; however, it was a bit difficult to get comfortable since the air was just cool enough to wear at least one additional article of clothing, and sometimes two. Just when we thought we had it right, the sun would come out and we were overdressed. We arrived at our lodging at 6:30pm. Our room is spacious and is adjoined by a room with a table that seats four, two half sized refrigerators, neither of which was plugged in. There was however a washing machine which our landlady/hostess let us use. The wash cycle was 1 hour 22 minutes and is just about done as we write this. Tomorrow we will cross the border into Germany.