Wednesday, May 15, 2013


As my bike salesman in Belgium probably knew (despite his promises), you can't ship an unaccompanied bike by train. So instead of returning it to him and getting some sort of a refund, my bike and I rode the train together about an hour and a half to the beautiful town of Haarlam, which is equidistant from the airport and Amsterdam.

Tourist information gave me the name of a bike shop, who directed me to another shop.  They agreed to buy my bike, but for just 1/3 of what I paid for it. I understand. It needs cleaning and work, I was obviously to get it off my hands and he needs to make a profit.  I kind of felt like I was giving away one of my puppies when I walked out with just my pack on my back.

Returning to the first shop, I happily left some of that money there, buying a cute cycling jersey. Makes sense to me.

The rest of my day involved icing my knee in my hotel room, walking slowly through the streets admiring the architecture, and touring the Frans Hals art museum.  I decided going into Amsterdam would involve too much walking.

I was floored by the number of bicycles in use. It was fascinating to see the kids being carried in various carts that are a part of the bike. Here are some that I managed to get a photo of, including the smallest folding bike I've ever seen (on the train).

So that's it. Off to the airport tomorrow, ready to get home, reunite with Bill, nest,  and wear different (clean) clothes.

That's it for now. Thanks for following my adventure.

The End for now.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Destination reached, goal accomplished.

As I pedaled past more pancake-flat, sub-sea level fields and canals, I pondered  the difference between destinations and goals. My destination this trip was always Hoek van Holland, but my goal had changed along the way.

It had previously been to walk the entire distance between the North Sea and the Mediterranean, but this year I was especially aware of the pleasure of experiencing the sometimes subtle differences between the cultures I was passing through in "slow time."

Even when I had to switch from walking to cycling, the weight of the city bike and the weakness of one knee kept me at a slower pace, which was still conducive to stopping and interacting with others.

Of course, I regret that I wasn't able to walk the entire distance. But a chance slip on the trail 10 days ago changed that. You make your plans and then adjust accordingly. It has turned out fine...except for possible meniscus surgery in my future. I can live with that.

I arrived in Hoek van Holland at 4:30, after a day on my bike that was both wistful and grateful. Now that the finish was approaching, I was almost sorry to see it end. I'm extremely grateful that it all worked out and I was able to see Luxembourg, Belgium and a bit of Holland up close and personal. None of this is taken for granted.

That said, let me tell you about my two major points of sightseeing today:  the Delta Plan and the ultra-charming canal town of Brielle.

The Delta Plan is the complex system of water management at work in the Netherlands. At a small museum center, I watched a stirring movie in English about the disastrous flood of 1953, and another about the building of sluices that help maintain a consistent level of water in a huge manmade reservoir. One thing I hadn't realized about the Netherlands was that, after the horrible flood that occured after 200 km of dikes burst because of a storm, it was decided to completely surround the country with strong earthen dikes, leaving only two accesses to the sea, from Rotterdam and Antwerp. Very much of the country is actually below sea-level, which I easily observed when riding on dikes separating fields from a major canal. Bill and his engineering buddies would have loved  to have seen the huge sluices that my long bridge crossed over today.

Brielle  was my lunch stop, but I could have spent hours there, adoring each and every little row house, shop and boat-filled canal. It left me wanting to see much more of Holland.

Despite the rain pelting my bedroom window at 2 am, the day dawned only slightly cloudy,  just a few sprinkles, and the wind primarily at my back. Even when it's wet, I must follow the strong Dutch in their can-do spirit.

Several long bridges , with separate bike lanes of course, and a ferry across the waterway that leads to the busy Rotterdam port led me to my final 10 km straight stretch in to my finish line. No more route signs to search for, only relaxed time to reminisce about the past 24 days.

Hoek van Holland is a busy little port town, receiving ferries from the UK. My hotel is on the nice little shopping street and not to far from the train station, from which I'll make my exit tomorrow. I coerced a drunken British 20-something , fresh off the ferry, to take my photo by the official starting point (but my finish line) of the GR5.

If you care to check in tomorrow, I'll share my Amsterdam adventures with you, before my one evening in Haarlem and Thursday's departure for home-sweet-home. I pity the person on the plane who will sit beside me, in my unwashed "evening wear."

But I feel very good. Thank you for reading my blog and, once again, unlimited gratitude to my
Support Guy back home.

Monday, May 13, 2013


I'm just one day away now from finishing this adventure.  I entered Holland just 10 minutes after leaving last night's B&B.  There was no sign, but the map had given me an idea of where it might be, and suddenly the pavement of the country road was nice and smooth and the cars' licence plates had NL on them instead of BE.

Still following the beautifully marked cycling routes, I veered around the city of Bergen op Zoom, which I had hoped to visit.  But frequent downpours took away my desire to sightsee.  And I no longer needed a cycling map since the efficient Dutch strategically post maps on signs frequently along the route.  I always stop and double check my numbers.

I spotted a herd of the famous Dutch camper-caravans in their native environment.  I was able to sneak up quietly and capture a photo of them unaware of my presence. They appeared to have recently groomed one another, based on their clean appearance.

Today's synopsis:  three historic windmills today (one of them actually working) and many modern ones; riding along long dikes and canals and crossing on bridges over locks; being buffeted about by unbelievably strong side- and head-winds, which resulted in a pace of about 4-6 mph at times.

My lodging is again with one of the Vrienden op de Fiets, this time a woman slightly older than me, who welcomes hikers and cyclists.  She has just about as many English words as I have Dutch (3), but is a great sport and we managed to have a conversation using pictures, maps and charades.  Her son and daughter-in-law, both English-fluent, are now here, which helps a lot.  They have invited me to eat dinner with them, and I'm excited about the smells which are coming up from the kitchen.  It is so wonderful being able to meet local families and stay with them.

I have my own light-filled bedroom, but Danni and I will share the bathroom.  As is often the case in France, the toilet is in its own little room, separated from the shower and sink.  Here, the toilet is on the ground floor and the rest is on the 2nd floor with the bedrooms.  I'm beginning to realize what a surplus of space we have in most U.S. homes.

I'm very excited about finishing up tomorrow.  I'd really appreciate it if it didn't rain, but we'll see what comes.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


With rain falling over half the day, it sometimes felt like I was out there on the bike longer than I was, although 9 hours was already long enough. Not really recommended for knee repair, but surprisingly, it doesn't hurt when I ride, slow and steady and not a hill in sight. Despite the rain, I still enjoyed the riding. When it started to rain each time, I just pulled up my raincoat hood, wiped my glasses off with my fingers occasionally and accepted it.

I had a map showing the various cycle routes till noon, but then had to rely on the list of about 2 dozen numbers I had made last night from a website. Each number represents an intersection of recommended routes. When you reach that well-labeled point, you head in the direction that is indicated to your next numbered intersection. No daydreaming allowed (said from experience), because, without a map at hand, you don't know if that next point will come in 5 or 25 minutes. But the signage was flawless.

Today's sightings:  3 thatched roof houses, darling cottages that artist Thomas Kinkaide would love to put in his paintings, expansive greenhouses, a bread vending machine by the bike trail, 2 gorgeous windmills (non-functioning), another chateau, canals, a marsh-filled natural park (in Belgium?), more "Mary niches" built into houses, and my cute B&B with horses in the field out back.

Tomorrow I'll be entering the Netherlands, the European country with the highest population per square km. Only 2 days left of riding. I'm predicting more wind and rain, but will push on to finish this #%^*€ goal!

Final note:  Mary Jo, I need you here to complete this picture!

Saturday, May 11, 2013


I didn't exactly rush out of the house this morning, with rain pouring down, contrary to the forecast. But, with me in my Gortex raincoat and my belongings in ziplock bags in the backpack, I finally had to say goodbye to my wonderful hosts.

As I rode along on the bike, glasses spotted with raindrops, I pondered the subtle difference between "being committed" (as in, to a cause) and "needing to be committed" (in need of mental help).

However, I soon saw that I wasn't the only one out there in the rain. It was Saturday, and large groups of cyclists, walkers, runners, and kids on horseback weren't waiting for perfect weather. It felt good to have others out there.

At one point during the morning, I wondered why one part of my route was indicated by a brown line instead of the customary green. Oh. Should have guessed that one.

Luckily, it did clear up during the afternoon, while I searched in two towns for bike route maps for tomorrow's.  Why would a Tourist Information office choose to be closed on weekends?

In between locked up TI offices, I passed acre after acre of rich fields, but with buildings always close at hand. Also, canals, yet another shrine, an awesome castle, a walled abbey, and a my first windmill on this trip.

I'm spending the night in the exact opposite of last night's cozy home setting:  a big hotel right by a hiway and the Albert Canal. This evening's entertainment is, thanks to a website I found, carefully planning my route and writing down the dozens of umbers of the routes I'll take the next two days. I'll be entering Holland on Monday, and hope to get a route map at the big town, Bergen op Zoom, right on the border.

This iPhone has been a tremendous help on this trip.  And more importantly, my husband, who listens to all my blathering every night on the phone, posts my photos, and never comments on the cost of this trip (especially with a bike thrown in). Thank you, Bill!  I can't wait to be together again next week!