Tag Archives: outdoors

When I grow up I want to be a Dutch tree hugger

IMG_20170819_112803

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness,” said John Muir. I don’t know if I’ve tapped into any secrets of the Universe cycling through the forests of The Netherlands, but I can definitely say it’s one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done here.

Our Southern cycling route is now looping towards its terminus point, and after covering another 100 miles or so North we’re again going straight West, towards Amsterdam – the city where things start and end this summer for me. We’ve had a few days of nagging rain and forests, the latter making the former more bearable.

IMG_20170818_164024

If you like trees, the national park De Hoge Veluwe is a beautiful place to visit. It’s very large, spanning over 50 square km, and it features a mixture of lush forests sand dunes in alternating fashion, a landscape formed during the Ice Age. Oddities keep things interesting right? In this park you can cycle or hike for miles and miles and not meet a single road or house.

IMG_20170818_165805

This time we didn’t actually go through the park but covered quite a bit of distance cycling around it, alongside forests which are just as beautiful as those in the park. We camped for the night at a lovely nature campground in Otterlo, where I promptly setup a clothesline and hung my various belongings to dry, plastic bags and all. That gypsy lifestyle!

IMG_20170818_183058

We’re now in Utrecht, where we took a day off to give our asses a chance to recover from the saddle brutalities. And now that I’m finally standing still I can think about how incredible it is that we actually made it here. Yesterday was without a doubt the windiest day I’ve lived in this country. A short 40 miles from the Veluwe park to Utrecht should have been a breeze, but instead it was as if we’d raised the wrath of the grumpiest wind gods. Cold air hit from all directions, and even in our lowest gears we were barely crawling at 9mph. Occasional maverick rain would remind us from time to time that it could, in fact, be worse.

IMG_20170819_141520

The wind was something extra. When we finally got to our campground, located on a charming farm outside of Utrecht, we setup the tent with zombie motions and considered calling it a day. But the city was so close! I managed to pull Jim out of his defeated state and we bravely biked into Utrecht for some beers.

Well, one beer turned into 3, and then some bitterballen were consumed, and then some ice cream. Finally, close to midnight we got back on the bikes and rolled into the night, through the partying city of Utrecht, over tall bridges and dark, silent cornfields, back to our farm campground. We agreed it was a good decision to go out after all. To beer or not to beer? The answer is obvious.

IMG_20170819_202411

Advertisements

A day of wind and forests

IMG_20170626_174109

80 miles of relentless pedaling through forests and cobblestone streets yesterday, the former much more enjoyable than the latter. In the morning, my plan was to take a train from Hardenberg to Steenwijk, then cycle from there to Groningen, another 60 miles North. To take the train I had to take apart my trailer so it would fit, the train was severely overcrowded. My lugging of the now-3 large pieces of luggage (bike, trailer, and my huge yellow bag) through the station can only be described as a funny and ungraceful scramble which made me wish I’d done more deadlifts at the gym. This stuff is heavy!

After missing my train connection in Zwolle – because Dutch trains depart maddeningly on time! – I decided that instead of waiting for the next train, I should just get on the road. The weight of all my luggage was becoming unbearable. The train would have saved me 20 miles, so this now became another 80 mile day.

It was the day of wind and forests. The Dutch have an incredible system of well paved biking paths through large expanses of forest with tall trees, the smell of pines intoxicating. Whenever I segued from forest to small towns, the pavement turned to cobblestone which made me very grumpy and made my wrists hurt.

When I finally rolled into Groningen I was on the verge of tears. I just wanted to stand still. 80 mile days at this stage, I decided, are not a good idea. I found a campground in the Central Park of Groningen, which I found charming – yes it’s for regular people, not for hobos! I enjoy the diversity and cleanliness of campgrounds in the Netherlands, and the fact that I’m paying about 10 euros per night for each, since I am cycling in (it’s a little more if you come by car).

So far I’ve passed through no less than 8 Dutch provinces: Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overijssel, Drenthe, Friesland and Groningen. Today will be my last day in the Netherlands, and after being spoiled with the luxurious cycling paths here, I’m apprehensive about what cycling will be like in Germany.