On the first day of my road trip I had cycled 87 km. Wow. I was quietly proud of myself.
On the Sunday, the second day of my road trip, it was raining. And not only that: the weatherman on the TV predicted wind force 7.
So I bolted my breakfast, packed my bags and around 8.15 am wheeled my bike (which by now I had named 'Fietsje', as it was my only mate at the time) with difficulty from the lock-up where it had made many friends overnight. It was surrounded by hotel tour bikes which had been tossed in willy-nilly, no doubt by disgusted fellow cyclists coming back from the fireworks show through the driving rain the night before.
My knooppunten route took me through stunning wetlands. Now I saw firsthand why my own name for my country is absolutely spot-on. I was surrounded by very low-lying meadows with waterways, lakes, streams, rivers and all the waterfowl that come with all that water. A falcon watched me from above and a kestrel wheeled away from me only moments later. And there were waterlilies everywhere.
The wind was southerly, and let me tell you, with wind force 7 at your back, you feel as if you are flying!
The night before, when watching the weather forecast on TV, I had decided to stop thinking about the ever-present rain. No point whatsoever. It would be raining all week. So what?
So I concentrated on the landscape, on the knooppunten, on not crashing Fietsje at sudden twists and turns and on the sodden villages I sometimes had to ride through.
The Haarlemmermeer, on a Sunday, is closed.
It was an effort to find a caff that was open, for a pee and a much needed coffee. But when I did find one around lunch time, it was a cozy one at a ferry crossing, with a friendly chubby cat and an old man, who watched me and Fietsje with interest, and came up for a chat.
"You going far?" he enquired.
"At least past Amsterdam, towards Zaanstad," I answered.
He gazed past me out of the window, at the rain being blown almost horizontally.
"Good luck. Make sure you stay on the right side of the river."
No worries. My knooppunten system led me along the river Zaan very nicely.
So far I could stay on the right side, no need to use one of the numerous ferries.
On I cycled, driven by the wind, lashed by the rain, through an empty landscape with only some boats keeping me company from time to time.
Around 3 pm, I noticed my back getting wet. So far my rain suit had kept me dry, but that was suddenly a comfort of the past. And not only did I get wet, and were my feet swimming in my sodden shoes, but my mobile phone had got wet as well. It gave one last buzzing sound and then quietly died.
This caused a sharp stab of panic. No phone, no contact with the home front, no photos and no means of finding a bed for the night. Damn!
I passed the outskirts of Krommenie, along depressing factories with forgotten names in peeling paint, "Lassie" (of the rice) the only one I knew. Krommenie was closed as well. But after cycling through what passed as its centre (closed), I spotted a bar. Five men were watching a huge flatscreen and drinking beer.
Their eyes swiveled from the football to me dripping onto the flagstones, and they all burst out laughing.
"Wet enough for you?"
"I am soaked, my mobile is soaked and everything is closed and I need a bed for the night. Do you know any hotels around here?"
They were very helpful. One looked up b&bs through Google, but both were booked. The other looked for hotels, and found one in the next village, Wormer. He talked me out of cycling on through the Beemster, "nothing but sheep!" and gave me directions to Wormer.
15 Minutes later I stopped in front of a sixties barrack with a huge glass front, and my mouth fell open. The lobby was milling with dark skinned people, some of whom were in traditional clothing. Oh my! He had directed me to an asylum centre. My cold feet told me not to be such a wuzz, and I went in.
Five minutes later I had a room, absolutely the last one available so the lady said. I couldn't care less. I took a hot shower, had a little snooze and around 6 pm was feeling peckish. So down the stairs I went, to ask for the restaurant.
"It's Sunday", the lady said.
Erm...I knew that...
"We do not serve food on Sunday", the lady said. "But aren't you glad to have the last available room!"
Long story short, I had to walk in to Wormer, in the hope of getting some food, somewhere. After a quarter of an hour, getting a bit desperate, I spied a pizza courier on a moped, coming towards me. So I jumped out in front of him, waving my arms.
"All the pizzas are ordered, mrs," the boy said.
"I don't care, where is your restaurant?"
He gave me directions and sped away. The pizzeria was full of people, all waiting for their ordered pizza to take away. On my right was a door, with 'restaurant' on it. I went in, glad that I was spared eating my pizza in the bus shelter. It had 25 tables. It was empty.
"What do you want?", panted the girl, droplets of perspiration on her forehead.
How about a pizza???
"I am rushed off my feet!", she said almost angrily.
Hah! Here my training with youngsters came in handy. Soothingly I told her no rush, just give me a glass of wine and I'll wait until you have time to serve me.
It took her approx. twenty minutes, but then I got her full undivided attention. She plonked down at my table, and happily told me the crowd had gone, and I could order anything I liked.
One delicious pizza, a green salad and two glasses of red wine set me back €12,50, a bargain!!
Afterwards I fled up the stairs to my room, the lady at the counter once again shouting after me that I was sooooo lucky to have the last room available!
It took all night to dry out my knooppunten map. But my mobile spluttered back to life...yay!
My tip for wanna-be knooppunten cyclists: do NOT let your smartphone get wet!!!