Good afternoon, my peaceful bicycle lovers. Look what I've got! In red, white and blue, well, that must be a good omen!
Always so sweet of other people to enthusiastically go along with my hair brained schemes. I borrowed these handy gloves from a friend, who once did the Friesian eleven towns by bike (and that was it - I believe she never cycled long distance again), and she lent me her special bike shorts as well, so now I've got a spare pair.
I'm still soliciting for partners - so far nobody has jumped at the chance. That either says something about my personality (cannot imagine that to be the case, can you?) or about my plans (come off it, live a little!).
Anyway, I've searched for a special link for you, and I've found it. To help you anticipate the fun as well.
Good evening from the still warm Wetlands. I have spent some considerable time reading the comments from foreign correspondents (Time, the Guardian, the NY Times, the Times and others) about how my fellow countrymen mourn. As if it is a rare event to be studied and commented upon.
Which strikes me as somewhat strange. Don't they know how to mourn themselves? Is there a difference between the mourning of the Brits after the London bombings, or that of the Americans after 9/11? Or even further back, the Scots after Lockerbie? How do you measure grief? If you cover a street with bunches of flowers, is that 'better' mourning than when you cover a fence with photographs? If you sit in front of the TV watching news coverage of the disaster for hours on end, have you felt deeper emotion than when you cry furiously for 5 minutes whilst doing the laundry, and then dry your tears and decide life must go on? How nice of you to tell the world that 'the Dutch' are a sober people, who only get emotional when the national football team wins. Bullshit. With respect, but bullshit. I was there in 1980 when an estimated 2 million Dutchmen marched through Amsterdam against the nuclear armaments that the US stored in our country. I was there (again in 1980) when thousands of emotional Dutchmen lined the streets of Amsterdam to welcome and thank the Canadians and Brits who had liberated the city in 1945. I witnessed the outrage of a huge part of the population only last March when right-wing politician Geert Wilders orchestrated a café full of racists to shout that all Moroccan inhabitants should leave the country. Come visit a pop festival, our Gay Pride, our Rotterdam carnival, and see how 'sober' and 'un-emotional' we are. Yes. 'We' have tried our best to react with dignity, and have put emotion on hold, in an effort to keep those thugs in Eastern Ukraine cooperating, for 'we' wanted those victims brought home. All victims, I hasten to add, not just the Dutch ones. And I (and this time I use I for this is my personal conviction) am certain that not all Ukrainian separatists are thugs. You see, again I am emotional. I cannot let myself believe that they all looted, and rejoiced. I have seen photos of ordinary people, old women, crying and grieving for the victims. And of men tirelessly walking those fields of death, trying to locate the body parts. I must keep believing in the fundamental kindness of humankind. Also in Eastern Ukraine. Yesterday thousands upon thousands of ordinary folk lined the streets, motorways and flyovers to pay their respect to the first 40 coffins filled with body parts that arrived from the Ukraine. They applauded, they cried, they prayed, they threw flowers, they sang, they were silent. They all mourned in their own private way, but collectively at the same time. Facebook has exploded with ordinary people posting poems, songs, drawings, photos, or a few lines to express their emotion. And still you call us sober and unemotional... look again.
Hi, dreamers, friends and assorted fellow-cyclists. I hope your weather is as lovely and warm as is ours - uncommonly warm and sunny for The Wetlands. This morning I first cycled to the harbour to wave bye-bye to my men (yes, I have two, since my son is already 21 yrs. old) and then to the shops to get some essentials for my upcoming cycle tour of my country.
Right. What do we have here?
* a special pair of cycling pants. They are totally unglamorous, with a thick padded crotch, to prevent blisters and other nasties on my tender parts. According to people in the know an ab-so-lu-te-ly essential part of my outfit. (What I forgot to ask is if I should wear underpants...? Logic tells me no...Hm.)
* a "knooppuntenkaart" of The Netherlands. This is a series of 22 maps which show all the existing cycle paths, in a system of numbers. So, starting at number 86 at the border of Hellevoetsluis, I then have to cycle towards the next point (48), and so on. I have never used this system before, so that will be exciting. Hopefully it will also be logical and practical, since I tend to take written instructions literally (and it wouldn't be the first time I am left totally bewildered by them because some inapt translator in China has used the wrong word)
* a set of small blank "knooppunten" cards which I can fill in every day (using the large "knooppuntenkaart"), so I will not have to stop at every crossing to see which turn I should take to what "knooppunt" and thus lose valuable cycling time. Not to mention valuable eating and drinking time.
* a small "knooppuntenkaart" holder that I can mount on my handlebars, so that I can see-whilst-I-am-cycling (! cool, eh?). For some reason they have called this gadget the Bikepointer in good Dutch (:P). We have our own inept translators right at our own turf, indeed.
AND you now have learnt a new Dutch word (perhaps your very first Dutch word?):
Remember it well. You never know when it may come in handy.
(Yeah....Like when the Russian tanks roll through Rotterdam, and people ask the driver of the front tank "how did you know where to cross the large rivers?" and they proudly answer "hey, we know our knooppunten!").
Humour is my way of battling pain.
Okay. I am going to put my swimsuit on and dive into my private pool. Enjoy your day!
are still showing a very high count of readers in the Ukraine - peace to you!
worry, like Martin Luther King I have chosen Love; Hate would be a too large burden to bear.
news is almost unbearable to watch or listen to, and The Netherlands are
veering wildly between grief, shock, anger, diplomacy and the knowledge that
for almost 17 million of us life simply must and does go on, I am preparing for
my wild plan to cycle the length and nearly the breadth of my country.
taken a good look at the route last night, and already doubt is stretching its
knobbly fingers towards my resolve. Golly, that is quite a stretch! And I am a
middle-aged untrained chubby woman with weak knees and muscles that are
used to standing in front of a whiteboard or sitting behind a desk grading
Can you see
Rotterdam in the middle on the left? 35 Km below that city is my starting
point. And I will have to cross my first large river by ferry after 15 km. And do you see that E22 dyke right at the top, stretching from Wieringen
towards Friesland over the IJsselmeer? That's the first goal.
calculated that it will take me 3 days to reach that dyke, the Afsluitdijk.
That is if all goes according to plan.
3 days I will be travelling across a built-up country of endless towns, called
the Randstad. Rotterdam, The Hague, Leiden and all assorted villages and towns
in between have melded together into one long habited and very busy area. (If
you live in Greater London, or Greater Los Angeles, you will know what I mean
My country is tiny compared to that of some of you, obviously. When you are in Australia, or Canada, or the USA, you'll laugh at our distances.
But to me they are very real, and a bit daunting.
And take a look at what I am cycling over....those dark blue, but also the light blue, bits are the areas below sea level. But here I am an experienced wetlander; I know those dykes are pretty reliable, no worries there.
Affected by the tragic news and the heart-stopping images of Malaysian flight 17 which have flooded The Wetlands for the last couple of days, I have this overwhelming urge to get better acquainted with my own country. Somehow far-flung places have lost their appeal.
This will probably be a temporary thing, my adventurous spirit will regain its balance I'm certain. But for now, I am planning a bicycle trip up-country. What can be more Dutch? We are a nation of cyclists.
I remember our new immigrant workers in the early seventies learning to ride a bike...Wobbling Turkish men on our cycle paths through the meadows near my home, and we Dutch brats falling about laughing when they lost their balance and ended up in the hedgerows or draped across the wooden fence which separated the cows from the road.
The world seemed a better place then. (Nonsense! The Vietnamese War was being fought out in those days and the Russians were the hulking threat behind the horizon. Ha! At least that hasn't changed)
The world seemed a better place then because I was young and naive.
Anyway. My wounded spirit needs healing and I have an instinctive drive to visit and get to know my own provinces instead of a hot country elsewhere.
Here is the plan:
*I will cycle North, along the North Sea coast of Zuid-Holland and Noord-Holland, until I am past Amsterdam. And then I will veer towards the East, roughly towards the IJsselmeer coast. And will visit family in Hoog-Karspel (roughly 170 km).
*Then I will brave the Afsluitdijk to Friesland and turn East again, where I will visit family in Drachten and an old friend in Kollummerzwaag (roughly 195 km).
*Then I will go even more East towards Winsum (roughly 50 km) in Groningen, to visit some more family.
*If all is well and I am still alive, and my bum is holding up, I will then cycle down to the South again, once more skirting the IJsselmeer, to Harderwijk to visit some more old friends (roughly 200 km).
*And then South-West back to Hellevoetsluis (roughly another 200 km).
Is that a cool plan or what?
At the moment I'm trying to get people to come along for a stretch (no luck so far. For some reason people think I am absolutely mad. Weird eh?) But if all that fails, I am going on my own.
Yes, yes, I'll be careful. I will not cycle after dark and I will not accept anything from strangers. Except kindness.
Moreover, I am going to make it a cycle trip for Peace. (In for a penny, in for a Pound) And I am going to keep you informed.
Do join me on my weird trip. You are very welcome.