Author Archives: Auntie Helen

NL2018 Day 13: Weert to Maastricht

Thursday 21 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

We had a good night’s sleep and then enjoyed an excellent breakfast in our little B&B. everything was really well presented.

We had contacted the Vrienden op de Fiets place where we would be staying tonight and they had said we couldn’t arrive before 5pm. As the distance for the day was planned as 70km we didn’t have any urgency to leave and so stayed until past ten o’clock.

But it was eventually time to head off towards Maastricht so we opened up the garage.

We had a nice chat with the landlady about velomobiles. We really liked B&B Piekoo Belloo and would recommend it to anyone staying in Veert – as long as you can cope with steep stairs (although you need to be able to cope with those for most houses in NL it seems!)

Having had lots of issues with cycle path quality yesterday, today’s route began as. A very big improvement. We had mostly very smooth cycle paths and they were wider than they often can be. Despite this we were riding at a very relaxed speed – I didn’t feel the need to rush and wanted the rest really. We rode to Stramproy, Haler and Ittervort on what seemed like really quiet roads.

At Wessem we crossed the Maas.

We thought we might stop for a cuppa in Maasbracht but ended up riding a bit further, to Echt, before we found a suitable stopping place.

Klaus was feeling more peckish so then had a spaghetti Bolognese. I had had a larger breakfast so didn’t need any food at this point.

We spent quite a long time in Echt and on our way out we stopped at an Aldi to buy some biscuits and chocolate.

After Echt we had a long climb up a ramp to cross the Julianakanaal on a bridge we have been over a few times before. This time on the downhill afterwards I rode on the cycle path but noticed too late that the hedges either side had recently been cut. I expected a puncture but was very lucky that I didn’t get one. Klaus had wisely ridden on the road here.

I did wonder if I had a puncture as I found the going very hard after this point. Klaus was up ahead and I had difficulties keeping up with him. We had a few interesting bits of routing, including the bridge below just for bikes (you can see Humphrey crossing it).

And now my turn…

The bridge had been put in for bikes to cross over some kind of construction area.

But just to keep us on our toes there was a ‘bicycle sluice’ to slow us down but Humphrey and Millie were able to squeeze through.

From here we were riding along quiet lanes through villages without much activity. And then we arrived at Berg aan de Maas, somewhere we have found ourselves many times. We were following the route from Roef and it took us up the massive hill in the centre of Berg. I had to change down to my Granny Ring to get up it (only the third time I have used this in the last 3 months) and found that once I wanted to change back up to the big ring I wasn’t able. This is due to my arm disability and the grip-shift which is very stiff. In the past I was able to use my right hand to change the gear with a bit of contortion but I couldn’t manage it this time for ages. Eventually I managed it but had been freewheeling down the street unable to pedal fast enough and with Millie’s lid half open so I could get my good hand onto the left side. I didn’t enjoy it at all. Etienne at EMvelomobiel.be has a trigger shifter in stock for me and one hope was for me to visit him tomorrow to get it changed. This absolutely confirmed that I couldn’t do the mountainous riding tomorrow though – if I can’t change into the granny ring then there’s no hope.

I had just got the chain back onto the big ring when I realised I had taken a slightly wrong turn and we were now going up another hill to a bridge over the canal, which was wrong! I was painfully slow up this hill and wanted to try to divert off this wrong route but there was no chance. Klaus who was right behind me got a close pass from a lady, who then proceeded to cut right in front of me, making me call out in fright.

Klaus overtook and we turned around in a side road, going back down into the town and back onto Roef’s route. This took us down some back roads and then we found ourself at some roadworks and there was no way through. We had to turn round again and clearly the best route was over the bridge over the canal and down the other side. So it was up the hill to the bridge again.

Once we got over the bridge and onto a side road I had to stop. I was completely exhausted. Having ridden the first steep hill, then had the stress with the gear change, then the hill to the bridge, then the close pass, then more fiddly routing, then turning round because of roadworks and over the bridge again, all within ten minutes, my energy had just disappeared. I have limited energy reserves for hills and need to have a chance to build them back up again, but this had all been too much.

I ate a biscuit (I wondered if not having lunch was a factor in my tiredness) and after a few minutes carried on, but I had no power at all. I was managing to ride at about 14 km/h.

After a few kilometres we reached Elsloo and I spotted a reasonable looking cafe. I felt it best to stop to try to give myself a rest so that I could manage the final 15km to Maastricht. I was completely pooped.

They had a decent cake – this would be called Stachelbeer Baiser in Germany.

We stopped for about half an hour and had a cuppa as well as the cake. We started talking again about fitting an electric motor to Millie to help me with this sort of situation (hills and acceleration from stationary).

When we set off again we had instant appalling road surface – really rough cobbles on a fast downhill with a sharp turn at the bottom. My teeth were nearly rattled out of their sockets!

We pootled on, on mainly quiet roads but with a few complicated road crossings. At one point I was overtaken by a guy on a loaded touring bike; clearly I was not riding at my best!

It was not completely flat where we were riding, there were a few very gentle inclines. In the background of this shot you can see a few of the hills around Maastricht.

Klaus will, on his ride tomorrow, have a fair bit of climbing and descending.

Because of my tiredness I also made the decision not to go to emvelomobiel.be tomorrow as I felt the 60km round trip, returning late in the evening (he only opens at 18:00) would not be a good idea. Fortunately the B&B that we will be staying at tomorrow is happy for me to arrive very early.

For today’s accommodation we had found a Vrienden op de Fiets in Heer near Maastricht. There was a good parking area for the bikes and the hosts’ daughter’s dog was very interested in them!

We had a room in the attic with a view over the Maastricht skyline. The blurb from Vrienden op de Fiets said we have a separate bathroom but this was not the case; however, they had a second room and a guest came at 9:30pm and her room did have a bathroom and also a mini kitchen. I am not sure why we were relegated to the lesser room!

We had a short walk down the road to a pizzeria – which was my first proper food since breakfast. I guess my tiredness is a mixture of food choices today, overall food (too many carbs, Klaus and I feel much better on low carb), the cumulative effect of drempels and cycle lanes and bumpy roads and perhaps just a bad day. I feel very tired which I don’t usually on a longer tour, I usually get fitter and fitter. We will see what tomorrow is like, but my actual route is only about 20km so I should have plenty of time to recover!

Tomorrow Klaus will brave the mountains around Maastricht. I hope that he will take some photos that I can include in the blog tomorrow. Watch this space!

3 Comments

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 12: Tilburg to Weert

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Here is our planned track for the day:

Today was planned as another shorter day at 80km.

After a good breakfast with John and Marieke we headed off at just past 9am.

Today was another day of mixed road surfaces. We had some fast roads but also lots of bumpy cycle paths.

There was one very long segment on a decent quiet road where a new cycle path beside the road was being constructed. This seemed to be a lot of work for a path where it wasn’t really required, in our opinion, although this road did have some kind of nature centre on it so perhaps they were hoping to attract younger children on bikes. Anyway, the area being constructed was at least 5km long.

And then suddenly an older cycle path appeared – which was wonky bricks and bumpy.

The problem with these bricks is that if you ride at a fast enough speed it changes from bumpy to buzzy but it is not comfortable for long. The velomobiles rattle and shudder and the Quattrovelo does lots of ghost shifting (changes gear). It needs more energy to ride on bumpy roads. On smooth asphalt today we were riding at 30-32km/h, on these bricks at 22km/h. That adds a lot of time to the journey!

And in this next picture you see the three road surfaces as we are waiting for the lifting bridge. I am on the bricks, then there are proper cobbles, then on the main road there are bricks in a different pattern (diagonal). All very irritating!

We were heading towards Belgium and would in fact have a few kilometres over the border as part of our ride. I noticed a familiar name on this road side – Kempen wood!

We had checked out the route before we left and decided to stop at 30km at Hapert as it looked large enough for us to find a bakery. After some minor explorations in the town centre we returned to a bakery Klaus had spotted on the main road going into the town and had some cakes which were actually pretty decent!

We were basically riding a large semicircle around Eindhoven and had very lovely views for most of the day, especially as the sun came out. In fact it ended up pretty warm by mid-afternoon, around 28 degrees, but when riding fast on decent road surfaces we had a good cooling breeze.

You can see below that we weren’t always on the brick road surface but this light-coloured surface was often fairly rough too. The suspension of the bikes smooths out most of the bumps but you do get a bit more noise in the velomobiles.

We crossed into Belgium at Saint Benedictus Abbey and rode along very pretty roads through woodland with lots of walking paths signposted either side. I don’t have any Belgium maps on my Garmin so took a wrong turn in Hamont but Klaus hooted Humphrey’s horn so I realised my mistake.

We had planned our lunch stop in Budel which was 65km into the ride so with only 15 to go. It was the only really decent sized town on the second half our of route. We found a pedestrianised centre area with several restaurants and sat down in the shade of a large umbrella outside one of them. It was hot!

I had another “Twelve O’clock” which this time had a mini jar of tomato soup too!

I had messaged the B&B to say that we were ahead of schedule and rather than being with them at 4pm might be an hour earlier. I got a message back to say that she wouldn’t be in until four, so we stayed a bit longer in Budel and had a cake each while we waited!

We set off at ten past three which gave us loads of time to get to Weert. Which was good as we had mostly rough road surfaces for this last sector. But we did see some interesting things – who knew Kempen had an airport?

The run into Weert was OK although there were a lot of other cyclists going very slowly which upsets the Velomobile cycling rhythm.

We arrived at our B&B which is really lovely (it has a rating of 9.8 on Booking.com). There was a large garage area for the velomobiles and the landlady proudly showed us the electric garage door. She closed it and it became clear – too late! – that the concrete markings on the floor for the garage did not correspond to where the door actually descended. The door landed on Millie’s rear end.

We shouted at the lady to stop the garage closing but she fumbled it a bit. In the end it was only the rear brake light which was knocked off; this is glued on so I guess it isn’t a major issue and we will fix it with gaffer tape for the time being. But this was a slightly inauspicious start.

However, the B&B is absolutely lovely! It’s very cosy with lovely decoration and furniture. There were some little slices of cake to welcome us.

Of course our stuff is everywhere making it look messy but it is very quaint and we feel comfortable.

We ate dinner at a Greek restaurant and then enjoyed a very nice ice cream on the way back; the queue out of the ice cream parlour was really long so we knew it would be good!

Klaus and I would be very interested to know what my Dutch readers think of the Netherlands cycle paths if they have velomobiles. Do you find them good? Would you rather ride on the road? Do you feel safe on the cycle paths? Would you normally prefer to use an upright bike rather than Velomobile for shorter journeys? Comments on this blog post would be gratefully received!

Tomorrow we have a mere 71km to Maastricht and cannot arrive at our Vrienden op de Fiets place until 17:00 so I expect us to have a more relaxed start and perhaps longer at cafes along the way!

8 Comments

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 11: Roosendaal to Tilburg

Tuesday 19 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

After a hearty breakfast we packed up all our belongings. Unfortunately the clothes we had washed yesterday afternoon hadn’t dried and overall our clothing is getting a bit whiffy. This isn’t the end of the world but it is one of the discomforts of cycle touring (I like clean clothes!)

Today we were heading to Tilburg to stay at the home of one of Klaus’s colleagues, John. As Tilburg isn’t that far away from Roosendaal we decided to go via Baarle Nassau/Baarle Hertog. More later. This made the journey 80km.

We fetched our bikes from the bicycle parking place – what a brilliant idea, I hope to see more of these in future! Then under heavy skies which threatened rain we set off again.

The way out of Roosendaal was a bit easier than our way in, but it was still a bit fiddly with various road crossings, drempels and rough surfaces. This turned out to be the theme for today which made the ride today rather harder than expected.

We rode south east towards Schijf and then back northwards again towards Breda. We had a mixture of road surfaces but our progress was reasonable. There wasn’t much wind and it was mostly behind us.

We had decided we would stop in Breda for a cuppa but weren’t exactly sure where to go as our Garmins had us just bypassing it. In the end we had a bit of a fiddly ride to try to cross a main road (eventually we found a bridge, having taken a wrong road that led us only to a hospital with no way into the town). We weren’t actually in the centre of Breda but inn Princenhage, but they had a chocolate milk drink for Klaus and I had a tea of course.

It was a bit warmer today so nice to sit outside and watch people walk past.

It was a more sticky day, so not particularly hot but I found it a bit sweaty riding. Yesterday I had worn some arm warmers to keep my arms away from the side of thee Velomobile (I keep getting a sweat rash, but the arm warmers didn’t help that much). Today I just had a buff over my right arm which worked better to reduce the irritation (no Lycra, I think I am slightly sensitive to it when mixed with sweat) but only one buff so the left arm was bare. But it seemed to be OK overall.

After Breda we headed south towards the Belgian border. At Strijbeek we were probably only a couple of hundred metres away. We had some good country lanes but also lots of slow and difficult riding through towns and villages. Brick paving, drempels, awkward cycle paths… But the countryside bits were very nice.

The landscape has changed again, there are more trees – and also some more warnings for the Oak Processionary caterpillar so Klaus was riding with his arms inside the Velomobile when we saw these. Fortunately our itches have mostly healed up, although Klaus is now suffering from sunburnt/windburnt lips.

A view across to Belgium:

We found ourselves on cycle paths which were much less well maintained than others on this trip. There were lot of tree roots which pushed up the asphalt and made it very bumpy and rattly. As well as this there were long stretches of wide tiles/stones which tend to end up undulating a bit so we were bumping in and out of dips in the road. Millie scrapes regularly in this situation and the sound is a bit unnerving. And of course there were more drempels, big ones that meant I scraped on the way up and on the way down again.

We ended up on a very long road from Chaam down to Baarle and this was a narrow-ish cycle path. It was better than the road beside it though; that was brick paving. Except after a while it wasn’t, it turned into sand. I began to worry that our nice smooth asphalt might turn into sand too, then we would have a long ride back again. Fortunately the asphalt continued right to the end at our planned lunch stop in Baarle Nassau in the Netherlands. Or was it Baarle Hertog in Belgium?

Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau is a very interesting part of the world as there are enclaves of Belgium within the Netherlands, and within these Belgian enclaves a few Netherlands exclaves. The picture below shows it – H is a Belgian enclave, N a Dutch one.

You can read about this in Wiki: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baarle-Hertog and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baarle-Nassau.

When we arrived we had to stop our bikes on the border. This was just outside the pancake cafe where we stopped for some lunch. As you can see, Millie’s nose is in Belgium in the town of Baarle-Hertog and her tail is in NL in Baarle-Nassau.

A sign on the pavement explains it in Dutch.

And here is a screenshot of Google Maps where we were sitting for lunch. In NL, but Belgium was about 20 metres south.

This is a tourist town because of these weird borders. THere are restaurants with some tables in NL and some in Belgium and the licensing rules used to be different so diners would move to another table if they wanted to stay later. There is also a house whose front door is smack bang on the border so the house has two numbers, one in Baarle-Nassau and one in Baarle-Hertog. I wonder how you decide which country you live in if your house straddles the border – presumably the one with the lower taxes!

Here you see a line of bricks zigzagging across the road; this is the border, with Belgium on the right. The person sitting at a table with a bike propped up beside them is in NL but the bike is actually in Belgium.

It was time for lunch so I had some soup and then followed it with one of my favourite bike touring treats – poffertjes!

We had noticed the menu also offered ‘Banoffee’ so ordered that and it turned out to be a Banoffee ice cream with popcorn.

It’s a fascinating town but what spoilt our time there was the large volume of traffic passing through the whole time. Huge HGVs were turning the sharp corner to take a different road right in the middle of the town where people were sitting outside eating lunch. There were also lots of cars. It’s noisy, spoils the air quality and makes it less relaxing. It’s a real shame they couldn’t pedestrianise it.

The route between Baarle and Tilburg is a former railway line that is now a cycle path. We had great hopes for this as our day had been difficult with some tiring riding. But we were actually a bit disappointed.

The cycle path diversion as they were building a new bridge wasn’t too bad – the gap was wide enough for Humphrey and Millie:

But the path quality was not great. It was very rough asphalt, not particularly wide and at every crossing of a road the cycle path had to give way. This seems very inefficient as there was lots more bike traffic than car traffic.

After the railway had closed a few businesses had built across the old route so there were a couple of diversions. These tended to follow the “add a 90 degree bend into the cycle path just before a crossing of a major road on a slight incline with a wide hedge beside it”. In other words, those of us in velomobiles with closed wheel boxes have to do a 6 point turn to get around the corner, at which point we can’t see if any traffic is coming and can only start very slowly as it’s uphill. Fun.

After 17 kilometres we arrived in the outskirts of Tilburg. At first this route was OK but as we got closer to the centre we had to do more stopping and starting again. This is tiring for me as Millie takes a bit of effort to get going. I was feeling tired despite the relatively short distance. The road surfaces today had doubled the effort required for this ride!

We went right to the centre of Tilburg on a cycle route and then moved past and to the north east where Klaus’s colleague John lived. The final 5km were a reasonable speed at last, and we arrived at our host’s house at 4:30pm. John and his wife Marieke welcomed us, gave us tea and let us shower and, most wonderful of all, washed ALL our cycle clothing! I was so relieved about this as I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable in it; my clothes were smelly and were irritating my skin a bit. Hurrah for a washing machine!

After we were showered and freshened up we had a lovely dinner that John cooked for us, an indonesian stir fry. Really tasty!

And then it was time for them to try Humphrey and Millie!

Marieke is a little short for the velomobiles and could only just see out.

John was a better height although his legs were slightly shorter than mine.

In conclusion, Marieke preferred Humphrey and they both though that he seemed more solid and comfortable. The extra 9kg are put to good use!

So it was really nice to have a cosy evening with chums. Tomorrow we ride to Weert which is just really a staging post on our way to Maastricht, but the B&B where we will stay has a 9.8 rating on Booking.com so that should be interesting!

And this is where we have ridden so far on our tour…

We only have a few more days of touring. We are really enjoying ourselves and are already discussing where we should go next year!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 10: Burgh Haamstede to Roosendaal

Monday 18 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

A short report for today as it’s my birthday and I want to enjoy a relaxing evening with Klaus!

We left our brilliant B&B at 9am and headed off in a light drizzle towards Burgh Haamstede itself and then further south towards Middelburg.

We had some more impressive dams/sluices/bridges for the day.

This one looked very complicated!

The only obvious place to stop in the first 50km was Middelburg, which at 30km was quite early but I needed the loo! We found a cafe where we just had drinks as it was too early for cake. Middelburg seemed very lovely, I saw this impressive row of buildings on the way out.

The rain had stopped and we were now on really fast bike paths so were zooming along at 30 km/h for long stretches.

We crossed more canals.

Saw more impressive bridges

And then decided to stop in Kruiningen for lunch and found a bakery/ice cream cafe/post office that was open.

They had sausage rolls!

I also had a cake as it was my birthday but once again it was a bit of a disappointment.

We carried on, keeping up a good speed and our average was creeping up too. Although today was a longer distance at 118km, which would normally be 6 hours at our NL speed, we realised we would arrive at the hotel a bit earlier than originally expected.

More bridges.

And this, dead ahead, is Antwerp. We are on the edge of Belgium.

We went down one street where the Belgian border was on our right hand side. We rode at a good pace except for a few bad cycle routes and brick paving in towns. I liked this road name!

Our average was at 23.5 km/h as we arrived in the outskirts of Roosendaal, at which point Klaus and I lost each other as I had a navigation issue due to a missing cycle path. But we met again outside our hotel which, despite having slightly singular proprietors, seems very nice. Our bikes were stored in one of two special bike parking areas which have someone watching the bikes. This is free of charge, it is just provided by the city, and was in a building in the main pedestrian precinct. Excellent!

We went out for a celebratory birthday dinner at a local Greek restaurant which is apparently the second best in the Netherlands. I enjoyed the meal very much but was a bit amazed at one of the dessert options (and which Klaus chose), which was Banoffee Pie. This Eastbourne dish has really travelled through Europe!

I had a Baklava as I love them!

Anyway, we had a good day although I’m feeling a bit tired now. Tomorrow we visit some Dutch/Belgian Enclaves and Exclaves and then will stay with a colleague of Klaus’s in Tilburg for the night. A shorter day but with plenty of interesting things to see. We are now heading eastwards with the wind either behind us or to our quarter, so the riding is easier and this is a sign that the tour is drawing to an end.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 9: Den Haag to Burgh Haamstede

Sunday 17 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

However, Alex had sent us an updated route a few days before that he thought might suit us better. Through the marvels of technology we were able to get this new route onto our Garmins.

We had an early start today so had the bikes out onto the street by 8am. We waved goodbye to our lovely Vrienden op de Fiets hosts and headed off from Den Haag towards the sea.

I used to ride my trike up from Hoek van Holland to Den Haag to catch a train so this was theoretically a familiar route but it looks different the other way round. The last time I rode it in this direction was during a mega wind which meant I was completely sandblasted, as was chum Vince.

The route out of Den Haag was relatively easy and included a rather nice track through some woodland.

We were soon in the dunes again within sight of the sea.

We then rode roughly south along the edge of the sea towards Hook of Holland, a place I have spent many hours in my time! It was a reasonable track so our speeds were fine, although there were some fairly nasty drempels too. But Millie is used to them.

As we arrived in Hoek van Holland we saw how close the Netherlands is to England!

I don’t think I’ve cycled in Hoek van Holland since they redid the main access road with a very good cycle path. It made it very easy to find our way towards the ferry.

And then we turned onto the cycle path that goes alongside the railway towards Rotterdam. Here is one of the lighthouses on the left and the two large Stena ferries on the right.

A closer view of the boat I have travelled on so many times – but never in a Velomobile.

From the Hook of Holland we now followed the Maas river inland. This was also following the old railway line which is now closed (which is a pain for people coming on the ferry as foot or bicycle passengers).

We passed the massive flood barrier:

Alex later explained that this was closed once last year, but if they close it for too long then Dordrecht floods.

The cycle path was pretty good here so we were making progress, although we had the obligatory bricks section where I slowed down a lot.

Our track crosses the river at Maassluis but we had arranged to meet Alex there so I went in search of a cafe for some cake. There was only one open that we found, and I had in fact breakfasted there before many years ago. Alex explained later that this area is very strongly Calvinist so no Sunday trading, even for food emporia.

Maassluis is very pretty, rather like Delft but with fewer tourists, particularly Sunday morning at 9:30am!


(Picture by Klaus)

We stopped at Monsieur Paul and had a cuppa and one of his special cakes which was very tasty!

Alex had arrived at the ferry crossing so made his way across to the centre of town where we were. We had another round of tea/coffee, enjoying the relaxing timetable of an early start and a shorter distance to ride.

We set off again in due course, straight to the ferry crossing.

As you can see from the photo above, the clouds were looking a bit threatening. There was a chance of rain on the weather forecast but we hoped to miss it, which in fact we did over the whole day. Result!

Once on the other side of the Maas in Rozenburg we had a bit of fiddling about to get out of the industrial area and over three more canals.

Eventually we found ourselves on the track variation that Alex had recommended which was a perfectly straight long run along a canal to Hellevoetsluis. This was great fun and fast, although of course we had a headwind the whole time. It seems in our circumnavigation of the Netherlands the headwind is following us round!

The ‘island’ we were on is connected to the next ‘island’ by a dam but just before that there is a restaurant called Quack-something-or-other. We decided to stop there for lunch and then Alex would head back to Rotterdam.

Whilst Alex and I faffed positioning the velomobiles for some photos, Klaus had a bit of a snooze.

Here’s Humphrey looking shiny. This is his good side, the other side has developed several scratches over the course of this tour. But that’s life.

Millie’s paintwork is more forgiving of scratches, dust, bird poo and dead insects.

We enjoyed our lunch and tea/coffee and then waved goodbye to Alex and the Little White Whale (now named Lewwie) and headed across the dam. Into a very stiff headwind. Those windmills were going round very fast!

We were riding along another very long dam.

And then had an unexpected off-road section, but it was a decent surface for the velomobiles so we kept on without much delay.

We were soon back on smooth asphalt, hurrah!

We passed Center Paris Port Zelande and then crossed over the main road the N57. It seemed the world and his wife were out kite surfing on this side of the dam!

There was a fantastic bike path up high on the dike but then suddenly it was blocked off and we had to go down a steep slope to reach a road at the bottom. We then found ourselves riding away from the main road down some lanes, knowing we had just 5km to go but not seeing any signs for Burgh Haamstede. We arrived at what turned out to be a really lovely and new B&B.

The velomobiles were put into a huge locked barn.

We have two double beds in our room (one is in a cupboard!):

a separate lounge and kitchen area:

We seemed to be the only guests. The hostess is really friendly and suggested where we eat tonight in Burgh Haamstede, as well as offering to drive us there. We had a lovely meal and then walked back, although the hostess came to collect us as she thought it was a bit cold (it wasn’t). We definitely recommend B&B Bouwmanshoeve, the lady host could not be more helpful!

Tomorrow we have a longer day again at 118km to Roosendaal but from the map it looks like the roads should be reasonably fast. We shall see! Tomorrow I am also celebrating my birthday.

1 Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 8: Rest Day in Den Haag

Saturday 16 June 2018

This was our first and only rest day on the tour. We probably didn’t actually need it as we were well into the rhythm of cycling and life is simple when you are on a bike tour – eat, sleep, ride – but we had planned to stop here and it would give us the chance to visit Delft. I had spent a night there on my Berlin to London trike tour many years ago and fancied a more leisurely look at the town, home of Vermeer (he of Girl with a Pearl Earring fame).

Our hosts told us how to get there and also explained the slightly complicated OV-Chipkaart system. It’s like a slightly more complicated London Oyster card. Our hosts had one card we could use (just paying for the trip we made) and Annet our hostess popped to the local supermarket and got us a second one so we could both travel. Very helpful!

We had a leisurely morning but set off at about half past ten, walking to the tram stop and then taking a tram to Den Haag Hollandse Spoor station and from there to Delft.

Once we arrived in Delft it was definitely cake time so we sat beside one of the many canals and enjoyed some Dutch cake. I had a Delftse Bol which was like a giant profiterole with a. Bit of confectioners’ custard in. We also drank tea and coffee of course.

After refuelling it was time for a wander around Delft which is a really pretty town, although heaving with tourists and with endless stalls with bric a brac and junk, and of course lots of Delftware painted ceramics.

It must be interesting to have your front door opening into a canal.

And with some baby coots living underneath your front doorstep.

We walked around a fair bit seeing the sights. It’s beautiful but also sad to see in almost every bit of canal we looked at there was a plastic bag floating. There were lots of cigarette butts around too – we watched a guy on a tour boat just chuck his lit cigarette into the water; five minutes before a coot had been feeding her three young from fishing at the bottom of the canal.

As it was lunchtime we stopped for some soup. This is mustard soup which seems to be a thing in NL as it has been the Soup of the Day twice so far. It was nice!

Whilst we were eating our lunch we had a message from Alex to say that the new battery charger for our velomobiles had arrived at his house and he would meet us in Delft. So we whiled away the time drinking tea and watching the birds on the water and the passers-by on their varied bikes.

Alex arrived and gave us our very special gift!

And here it is, once we got home, doing the right thing (orange light!)

Alex headed home fairly soon after. He had arrived on a hire bike via the train from Rotterdam. He explained the system to us, and that the bikes with blue front wheels were also hire bikes mostly used by students. He also explained to me why I had seen several rucksacks hanging from flagpoles outside houses – this signifies that someone has graduated from high school.

The school holidays have already started in NL so that’s almost a month earlier than in the UK, but they get longer holidays – I think he said twelve weeks.

Klaus and I got the two trams back and then stopped off at the supermarket to get some chocolate (important!) and cake (also important!)

Our hosts have to go out early tomorrow morning so we would have to leave before 8:30am so got everything ready. The bike trackers were charged up, I attempted to dry the rain cover for Millie (that I put away wet when we left Egmond) and we relaxed some more. I watched a BBC summary of the World Cup so far.

We walked to a very nice Italian restaurant for dinner and Klaus treated himself to some red wine.

On the way back we passed a mini filling station just in the street!

Tomorrow Alex will ride some of the way with us and will meet us in Maassluis. He had sent us a slightly revised route for the day which avoids an appalling Drempel and also improves a few routes. Tomorrow is a shorter day again so we can ride in a more leisurely style as it’s less of a rush and we are staying in a hotel. We have a longer ferry journey across the Maas to enjoy.

1 Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 7: Egmond to Den Haag

Friday 15 June 2018

Spotted by a friend this morning, our tour is mentioned on Ligfiets.net:

This was our planned route for the day:

We slept well and had a bit more of a lie in as breakfast didn’t start until 8:30. Although there were some odd things about the hotel, the breakfast was very good. We set off about quarter past nine.

Our Vrienden op de Fiets host for Den Haag said she had to go out at 16:30 so asked if we could arrive by then. this should of course be easy, it was only 87km.

However, the start of the ride was quite hard going. Getting out of Egmond was OK as we rode alongside a main road and then beside the N512 which headed towards Castricum. It was when we turned off at Castricum that the fun started – more brick paved road surfaces.

Riding among the dunes is very pretty and peaceful but we had a very long stretch on this surface. At the beginning of the ride I felt that something was wrong with my front right wheel; there was a small amount of play in it so I wondered if it was the bearing, but it was only really noticeable under braking load when it juddered. We stopped and had another look after 15km and realised the other wheel had the same level of play in it, so it probably wasn’t a bearings issue. We checked the steering arms etc and everything was tight. But it had improved with use so I think it was probably that the bike got wet and I kept the brake on overnight. Maybe it slightly seized/rusted.

Halfway along our first sand dune stretch we stopped to climb up for a panorama view.

Lots of green as far as the eye could see.

And two little velomobiles waiting patiently for us.

Here is Mr Grumpy enjoying the fresh air.

We carried on and it was more bumpy path. I can’t maintain a high speed on this sort of surface, I am lucky to be able to get up to 20 km/h.

We saw lots of birds, dragonflies etc but also some rather lovely cattle with impressive horns. They don’t seem to know the Green Cross Code so we had to verbally encourage them to get out of the way.

After Wijk aan Zee we were back on a decent road surface but now had the alternative issue of the cycle path changing sides and us not always knowing where to go. We rode around Beverwijk and then headed to Velsen-Noord. It was at this point that I took a wrong turn and realised after 10 metres and stopped. The road was too narrow to do a 3-point (or 12-point) turn so I was about to get out but Klaus said I should stay sitting as he would turn me round. We have done this before – he lifts the back of the VM and can turn me round 180 degrees.

Only this time… PING!!!

A familiar noise – I had heard it a couple of months ago. The sound of a spoke breaking. And indeed it was a broken spoke in my right front wheel now (previously it has been the left front wheel). Oh well, I rode the last tour with a broken spoke, it’s no major issue except… our penultimate day is planned to be mega hilly. I have to seriously consider whether I should ride this because of the load on the brakes for the downhills. I was a bit dubious about doing it anyway. We will see how things go, and undoubtedly when we get back to Kempen we will twist Jochen’s arm to change yet another spoke for me!

We were on the right path again which led us to a ferry crossing over the Binnentoeleidingskanaal that goes from Amsterdam to the sea. This ferry was free of charge, and unlike the ferries near we we live there weren’t steep ramps either side. It was virtually a level entrance and exit.

Another minor navigation error by Klaus after we left the ferry meant that we had a short tour of the parking area of a large college. It’s hard from the low down position of the Velomobile to see where the cycle paths go; we regularly have to trailblaze a new route, which almost always involves too-sharp corners for the Milan followed by multiple Drempels (sleeping policemen) where the Milan scrapes with a very expressive noise. I’ve lost count of the amount of time I have heard this noise on the tour.

Back on track again we were wending our way around Driehuis which involved bumpy cycle paths, drempels, awkward corners etc. This ride was hard work!

We passed Santpoort-Zuid and then found ourselves in Bloemendaal; we had visited here a couple of weeks ago by car with the dog. We were able to ride faster in Bloemendaal as the cycle paths were much better quality and there was quite a lot on the road anyway.

After Bloemendaal we arrived at Overveen where our route turned back towards the sea and the dunes.

I had been calculating our likely arrival time in Den Haag and it wasn’t looking good. Although 87km should not be too difficult, I calculated that it had taken us two and a half hours to cycle just 35km. Our average speed was around 19 km/h, it was all the stops and starts that were taking time. If we continued at this rate we couldn’t afford to stop for lunch.

At Overveen we had the choice to just follow the main road to Den Haag. Probably very unattractive but a bit less time-critical. We thought about it and decided to go for the dunes route. Both Gabi and Alex had told us it was OK and this was part of the route that I had really been looking forward to.

Decision made, suddenly the cycle path quality was really good and we zoomed along. Here is an impressive crossing for wildlife… I am on the cycle path, the road is on the right. We could cruise this path at 35 and started making up some time.

We reached Bloemendaal aan Zee and then zoomed along on a really decent cycle path/busway towards Zaandvoort. We were feeling much more relaxed about our schedule now, it seemed like we might manage it after all! Our average speed crept up to 22km/h.

At Zandvoort it was time to ride back into the dunes again. If this would be bricks again it would be a real effort for me. Fortunately it was instead a very decent surface, but they decided to put a little barrier in just to inconvenience us some more!

This was the view straight past the Draengelgitter… a cattle grid and then the open dunes.

So off we went, very quickly getting to a decent speed. At one point we overtook two lady roadies – on a slight incline! I was very proud of myself but had too keep ahead of them which involved a bit more effort than I usually make when touring.

Klaus was enjoying the speed, and we both liked the cooling of the air as we had been riding slow for so long and the day was warm. It was rolling dunes so the chance to build up some speed on the downhill and hope it was enough forward momentum to get to the top of the next climb.

This was a very long sector, I think over 20km, and although not too busy we were passing everyone going the same way as us and sometimes having to reduce to crawling speed when there was too much traffic coming the other way for us to overtake.

Then suddenly as we were rounding the Noordwijk Golf Club the road surface changed to packed gravel. But this was actually OK and we were able to maintain speed.

We arrived in Noordwijk aan Zee with just 25km to go to Den Haag and it wasn’t even 13:30. We had time for refreshment and picked an ice cream place.

I checked my phone and saw a message from Alex who was riding today and was just north of Noordwijk. He wondered where we were – I suggested he came for an ice cream, so after about 15 minutes he turned up in the Little While Whale (Quest XS). With our second round of drinks we got mini ice creams too!

Alex lives in Rotterdam but said he would ride back to Den Haag with us, so off we went, a group of three velomobiles, into the dunes again.

In checking the map to write this blog I notice we crossed the Rijn (Rhein) just before Katwijk aan Zee. I didn’t notice this at the time.

The road surface was mostly good and we rolled well, although Klaus had a bad attack of cramp in his foot which meant he couldn’t pedal hard for a little while. He soon caught up though.

And then we were back on brick paving AGAIN. Klaus and Alex were off ahead and I was struggling along on the bricks. This time they really slowed me down. I guess I was a bit undernourished too! I stopped to text our Vrienden op de Fiets host to say we were 10km away.

When we got to Scheveningen Alex went on his separate way home and Klaus and I had our first experience of riding a Velomobile in the city of Den Haag. Not too bad really, except for some roots that had lifted up sections of the cycle path. But we were able to make reasonable progress following the purple line on our Garmins.

And then we arrived!

Our host and her husband had cleared a section in their garage so we could fit the bikes.

First we got all our luggage out. Klaus is carrying everything except the black Velomobile bag on the left. He variously calls himself the Pack Mule or Sherpa. I think he is my hero for carrying my red bag with my 3 changes of cycle clothing (luxury!) And my stock of teabags.

The bikes fitted fine in the fantastic garage. It had everything in it!

We were given a lovely room on the top floor with a view out onto the road. Also a very useful place to hang our washing!

We had a kettle and fridge in our room but no milk so I popped round the corner to the supermarket to get some Kaffeesahne milk thingies. While I was there I bought some fruit and yoghurt for our dessert and then went across the road to the Indian takeaway and got a reasonable but expensive Saag (spinach) lamb curry with naan bread for us to share.

I had also bought a cake in the supermarket as we hadn’t had one all day. In fact, our only food on the ride was the ice creams.

Total distance ridden today was 86.9km at a final average of 20.9km/h. My average heart rate was higher at 130 which doesn’t surprise me as there were some tricky roads and lots of accelerations which really don’t suit my low power style of riding.

It looks like we are in a great place for the next two days as we have a rest day tomorrow. We will probably visit Delft by train (we will let the velomobiles have a day off!) and then on Sunday we will head south to Middelburg and Alex will probably accompany us on some of that route. We expect to see him tomorrow when the charger for the Velomobile lights hopefully arrives at his house – he will then deliver it to us and we will have electrics again! I rode today without brake light or indicators and although it is manageable I will be happy to have them available again.

3 Comments

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 6: Harlingen to Egmond

Thursday 14 June 2018

Following our issues with the battery charger yesterday I sent an email to Velomobiel.nl asking them to send a replacement charger to Alex in Rotterdam (we would be seeing him on Sunday). They said that was no problem but I was still a bit nervous (don’t know how reliable the Dutch postal service is) so I decided to ride today without using the battery. I would need it tomorrow when riding in Den Haag as indicators and brake lights are very important in a city. Today we would be mostly on cycle paths outside towns.

Here is our planned track for the day:

This route would take us over the Afsluitdijk which I rode a couple of years ago on the trike with Kajsa Tylén when she was doing her Guinness World Record year. I remember it as very insecty and windy!

It’s a very impressive engineering feat but at almost 30km long it’s actually a bit dull to ride across.

But first we had to get there. It was just 10km from Harlingen to Zurich where the Afsluitdijk starts.

The wind was very strong and we knew some rain was forecasted later. When we actually got onto the dike and were exposed to the full force of the headwind, our main thoughts were with the few cyclists that we passed. Riding an upright bike in that wind?????

Here you can see Millie’s tail reflected in Humphrey’s tail.

Although it would have been nice to whizz along the Afsluitdijk, with a 40 km/h headwind that wasn’t really possible. We managed around 23-25 km/h overall.

At that speed you see quite a lot. There were kite surfers doing tricks, Klaus had a cormorant fly alongside him, we passed a few cyclists clearly on tours with heavy bags. They were struggling when going in our direction, the other direction was obviously very easy!

You can see the sea to the left of the cycle path, on the right it’s just a large green dike with sheep grazing.

Here is a Video I took. It’s not that good but gives you an idea of the windiness!

About three quarters of the way across there is a monument to Mr Lely who built it.

At the other end of the Afsluitdijk is Den Oever. I had been here before looking for food and found one so this time we had already planned to cycle to the next town, Hippolytushoef which looked larger so would hopefully have somewhere for our lunch stop.

A bit of on-the-fly navigation when I missed a turn didn’t work out quite as well as expected!

We were soon out of Den Oever and riding through countryside which looked remarkably English. Tree and hedge-lined roads which were narrow and without road markings. It was also very slightly rolling, not the pan flat that we have been used to so far. However, there were hardly any cars so this was less like an English country lane!

At Hippolytushoef we did indeed find somewhere to stop for lunch after asking at a coffee shop (which had no food except light biscuits so not enough for the halfway stop for hungry cyclists!) We ended up at a nice cafe where we started with soup.

And then had a cake course.

We had several drinks too. When cycling into a headwind it seems to really dry you out and you need to keep hydrated. Although the day was much cooler (16 degrees) we were still thirsty.

As we left the cafe there were a few spots of rain but nothing much to trouble us.

Shortly after this we were crossing our next dike, separating the Amstelmeer and called the Amsteldiepdijk. It was much shorter, only a couple of kilometres, but equally windy!

We were now heading south west towards the strangely-named town of Anna Paulowna, at which point we turned off the main road and did a bit of cross-country. We passed this lovely thatched windmill.

We soon made our way to the coast where we had dunes to the right, flatlands to the left and a huge headwind in front of us. We were struggling to ride at more than 20 km/h at times. It was very tiring and we couldn’t begin to imagine how awful it would have been if we weren’t in velomobiles.

As we passed Sint Maartensvotbrug we saw a campsite reception and stopped there to see if they had a cafe. I needed the loo and we fancied another short stop before the last 30km to Egmond. Not only did they have a cafe, but for the first time in NL my tea was free! I also topped up the energy with a Magnum.

We were on the road again before long. At Petten the route we wanted to take wasn’t possible – there was no cycle path beside the road and the road had very firm No Cycling signs. So we had to reroute on the fly and ended up going inland and along the N9 for a while. This was actually fine as the wide cycle path was separated from the road by 10 metres or so.

The wind was incredibly strong and gusty now though. Velomobiles are very stable but we were getting pushed from side to side. It was good that the road surface was reasonably smooth as that at least helped us to keep up a speed of 23 km/h or so. The rain had started and raindrops hitting you whilst being whipped by the wind are quite painful!

At Schoorl it was time to rejoin our original track. The rain was set in now, we were both feeling a bit damp but it was otherwise OK. I kept thinking I should plug in my lights as the rain made everything gloomy but never got round to stopping to do so. We were on cycle paths some of the time, the road a little too.

We went round the edge of Bergen which looks like a nice town except they have either brick as a road surface or the cycle path has lots of roots making it bumpy. But we survived!

Shortly afterwards my Garmin showed we had reached Germany!

The final five kilometres from Bergen Binnen to. Egmond aan den Hoef were on a nice smooth cycle path with trees either side. We rolled easily up and down the rollers on this track; the only disadvantage with slight hills is that rain drops onto my legs from the hinge area of my entry flap on the Milan.

At Egmond aan den Hoef we turned back towards the sea at Egmond aan Zee and soon found our apartment.

I had emailed saying that if there was nowhere to store the velomobiles could he tell us. It turned out that he had emailed a reply saying they didn’t have a garage but I hadn’t received it. Oh well, we were able to leave them in a small seating area in front of the apartment and I used Millie’s new cover to keep the rain off her. One disadvantage with the rain and wind was that Humphrey’s tracker detected movement alarms every few hours; we could see him if we leaned out of our window and there was never anyone there.

I felt rather tired after the ride and had a little sleep. I didn’t feel like going out for a meal so Klaus walked to the supermarket down the road and bought us some salad, fruit salad and some chocolate. We had a meal in our Apartment (we have a small kitchen) and kept out of the rain.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for sunshine and 20 degrees so that is an improvement! We will be riding to Den Haag where we will have a rest day on Saturday. Alex will hopefully deliver the battery charger on Saturday too!

1 Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 5: Groningen to Harlingen

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Here was our planned track for the day:

We had a good night’s sleep in our caravan but the washing that had been hanging in the bathroom had not dried unfortunately. I put my items in a plastic bag to try to dry them this evening, Klaus put his wet clothes on!

We had a very tasty breakfast:

This seems to be the traditional Dutch breakfast of lots of rolls, cheese and ham, one egg and also jam and marmalade and chocolate sprinkles (we don’t eat the latter).

Our bikes had had a very comfortable night in storage:

We checked out and were on the way at 9:15.

After about 1km our route suddenly changed and the bike path we had been on beside the road changed to a very narrow path, barely the width of a Velomobile, and a bit uneven and bumpy. We kept going along this as there wasn’t really an alternative.

After about 2km this bumpy path turned onto a bridge over a small canal and we were back to decent roads again, hurrah!

Today was a day of lovely views again. I liked these house boats, some were just like square houses.

We were lucky enough to see another stork, and this time I even managed to take a (very grainy) photo of it!

As well as the stork, today we have seen hundreds of swallows. They sometimes fly incredibly close to the Velomobiles but always get out of the way in time. I love to watch their acrobatics!

Today’s road surfaces were mostly good (no 12km of brick paving like yesterday!) and this meant we could cruise through the countryside in a very relaxed manner. Here in there in the landscape we saw windmills.

As we were leaving Kommmerzijl we rode along a section of road where the hedges were being cut. This is a very familiar experience for me from my cycling years in the UK, although the hedges are cut much later in the year there after the birds have finished nesting. But it is a classic time for a puncture, and lo and behold a couple of kilometres later:

This was the first puncture on the road with Humphrey and in the Marathon Greenguards at the back.

We found the culprit and unsurprisingly it was a thorn from the. Hedge cutting. We found a second thorn trying to work its way into the front left tyre so removed the really sharp shard of that too. Reinflating two tyres to 6 bar (100 PSI) keeps you warm!

The puncture was dealt with and we carried on. We had ridden 25km and knew that our main lunch stop would be at the 50km mark in Dokkum. We doubted we would find anything before that and because of the chance to stretch our legs with the puncture repair we didn’t need to stop again.

Clouds were gathering over the landscape as we trundled our way towards Dokkum into what was becoming a pretty stiff headwind.

In due course we arrived in Dokkum and found a restaurant where we had tomato soup and then a sandwich. We are eating a lot of bread on this tour – we don’t normally eat it!

One thing we noticed is that passers by seem less likely to touch the velomobiles than in Germany. We are able to relax a bit more as people seem to have more respect for our property! In Germany people often seem to ignore the fact that these bikes are private property!

After a leisurely lunch we set off again with 55km to ride.

Our route started along the N356 which has a decent cycle path beside it but they were renewing sections of the cycle path so we had quite a lot of mini detours. We ended up going through the villages of Foudgum, Brantgum and Waaxens rather than past them!

We then turned westwards parallel to the sea but we couldn’t see it at all because of the dikes.

We were on the main road to Leeuwarden but at Hallum we turned off on a quieter road that headed a bit more north. This was a lovely road with very little traffic and some lovely views (photo by Klaus)

This road was fairly fast and we were making good progress through villages with names like Oudebildtzijl and Nij Altoenae despite a very gusty and strong head/sidewind. The road ran along the top of a dike and there were houses most of the way along, but no shops, restaurants or Cafés. We had thought to stop for a cuppa but no chance.

At Westhoek we were finally near the sea (although we couldn’t see it) and the road became rather more agricultural.

We saw only a few cars, almost no people – but lots of sheep!

We realised we wouldn’t find any cake until we arrived in Harlingen. This meant we had ridden a 25k stretch without a single cafe or bakery. That would be extremely unusual in Germany!

Harlingen has lots of industry on the outskirts, mainly relating to wind turbines and fishing. The town itself was very pretty with a nice central street.

We found a cafe and ordered some cakes.

Once again, like other cake experiences in NL, my cake looked better than it tasted.

Our B&B was in a residential area 2km outside the main town. The host was very friendly and they offered to wash our cycling kit which was great!

We rode back into Harlingen for an evening meal at a pizzeria. It was nice enough but much more expensive than in Germany.

When we came back we stowed the velomobiles in the back garden. It was a tight squeeze to get Humphrey round a corner and he seems to have picked up some new scratches in his paintwork as a result which is a bit of a shame. We really must have a go with the colour touch-up stick!

One very bad discovery was that the battery charger we had packed to charge the velomobie batteries (for the lighting) did not work. This was a brand new charger that we had received with Humphrey but never used as we had Celeste’s charger at home. We left Celeste’s charger and I just put the new one, Humphrey’s, into the packing. But it appears that it doesn’t work at all. Both Millie’s batteries are completely flat and Humhrey’s Battery Number 1 is at about 20%. We have two spare batteries so I have one that I must eke out for another 10 days. With my large LED brake light this is not possible, so we have emailed Velomobiel.nl and asked them to post a replacement to Alex in Rotterdam who we will see on Sunday. Let’s hope that works, but if any readers know of an alternative option please let us know!

Today’s ride was 107.2km with fairly strong headwind a lot of the way. Our average speed was 20.9 km/h and my average heart rate was 115 bpm. My average cadence. was 62 so you can see it was a super comfortable cruising day.

Tomorrow I ride the Afsluitdijk again but this time in a Velomobile. I hope there will be fewer insects landing on me this time too, we are only just beginning to see improvement in our Oak Processionary caterpillar rashes!!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 4: Hardenberg to Groningen

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Here was our planned track for the day:

But first, a couple of things I forgot to mention in my blog yesterday.

We were lucky enough to see a stork flying overhead as we were on our way to Nordhorn. On our ride today we saw a pole with a stork nest on the top and it looked like someone was sitting on there.

We were also surprised to see another Velomobile yesterday, a mango in white with a red top. We waved and the chap waved back but we didn’t stop.

What particularly struck Klaus was when we were cycling behind a large group of schoolchildren. There were probably thirty kids with an adult at thee beginning and the end of the line. They were riding towards Nordhorn along a busy road, crossing that road later (and all oohing and aahing at our Velomobiles). What was noticeable was that not one of these kids or adults had bike helmets. It’s not usual in NL as it’s not necessary and cycling is seen for what it is – a safe hobby which is part of daily life; your bike is your mode of transport.

Anyway, back to today. We slept really well and then went down to an excellent breakfast prepared by our host family.

We ate most of it as we were preparing for a longer day – 120km was planned.

However, first we had to do something about our itching. My neck had come out in more red dots and Klaus’s arm was looking very impressive:

What we could see now is classic Oak Processionary Caterpillar hair weals. What is also interesting is that where we have these marks shows which Velomobile we ride. In the Milan my body is completely enclosed, but my neck and head are above the parapet so to speak. So my neck got most of the trouble; I had sunglasses on and don’t think anything got on my face, but I have a ring of red around my neck.

Klaus rides often in the “Doppel Manta” position, which means both elbows out and arms resting on the side of the Velomobile. Consequently he was able to have the airborne hairs attack his arms. He also has some on the sides and back of his neck and a few in the crook of his knee (these will have come up through the footholes).

We decided to get some cetirizine antihistamine as it is supposed to help, so cycled to the nearest Apotheker/Chemist.

It seems that the Netherlands chemist situation is similar to that in the UK. In the UK you can buy paracetamol, antihistamines etc in supermarkets so they are very cheap. In Germany you can only buy them in an Apotheke and they are priced very highly. For example, we saw Ibuprofen tablets in NL for 69 cents for 10. Klaus says that in Germany it is 7-8 euros for 10. I buy all my tablets in the UK (30 paracetamol for under 50p, for example) and had two packets of cetirizine back in Kempen but nothing suitable with us.

We also asked for some kind of salve to take away the itchiness and they provided us with a cream. It doesn’t seem to have any active ingredients, I think it is just a cooling option, but we put it on and took an antihistamine each and then set off.

We were using Roef’s track as far as Emmen and then we had a track provided by Alex which would take us along the Aa valley.

Our ride started off very well – open roads, not much traffic, scenery great. It was fairly cloudy and quite cool, around 16 degrees, so we were a little more comfortable in the velomobiles. I still had my sunglasses on though to avoid more Oak Processionary Caterpillar airborne hairs.

There were still a few route surprises though. Our road was closed at a bridge but we were able to squeeze through!

We had followed signs to Coevorden for the first 12km but only went around the outskirts of the town which included lots of oil companies. We also liked the road names, but I guess in ten years young people won’t know what a Modem is!

We carried on, trundling along at around 22km/h. It was a very easy day and we weren’t pushing hard. We had a reasonable distance to cover and I wanted to keep it relaxed.

I knew there weren’t too many places to stop for food on the route so as we reached the outskirts of Emmen we detoured into the centre a short way. We saw a Café and a Lidl so stopped for a tea break

After our tea we went across the road to Lidl to buy a few nuts. It was the largest, poshest Lidl I had ever been in!

We were now using Alex’s route and I noticed a difference in the route planning from the start. Alex had chosen perhaps more minor roads which cut through fields and gave a more scenic outlook, although the surfaces were sometimes a little rougher.

We rode along this lovely avenue.

We passed a field with a handful of sheep in which was being used for border collie training.

We had done 70km and I realised we ought to stop for a decent lunch as we might not find anywhere else. We were approaching Rolde which was a reasonable size town, so we deviated from the track in search of a restaurant. We found one just as dark clouds were rolling in. If it were going to rain, I would be inside!

We ordered a decent lunch as we were expecting to just eat snacks tonight. I ordered a Dutch dish called 12 o’clock.

Klaus went for a salmon salad.

Whilst we were eating we heard someone on another table mention cheesecake; yes, they had cakes here – so we ordered a slice of cheesecake and a slice of passion fruit cream cake.

We spent quite a long time over our lunch, drinking plenty too as although it wasn’t particularly hot, the wind still dries you out a bit when riding.

We left Rolde and the usual road surface of paved brick didn’t cease after we passed the tow sign. We were on red bricks that just kept on and on… and were bumpy with some dips and ridges too!

The bricks finally ended after 12km. This had considerably slowed us down; I had contacted the B&B where we were saying to give an expected arrival time of 17:00 but that was assuming we would ride at 23 km/h and we were only managing 18 over the bricks. But at last we were back onto normal tarmac.

One thing we noticed today was the vast number of thatched houses. These were by no means old houses, in fact lots of them were brand new. It must be a thing in this region. I saw one house with a mixture of roof tiles, brand new thatch (a yellow colour rather than brown) and another section of roof with solar panels.

Here are just two random houses I photographed which are thatched. New, too.

We were following Alex’s route and then suddenly came to this sign when in Zuidaren.

Klaus tried to fid an alternative route but I saw a chap from the roadworks and asked him where to go and he explained a route. Klaus returned and we did that together.

Just a few minutes later we found ourselves in front of another road closed sign. We checked our Garmins again and found an alternative but had no idea what the road surface would be like. It wasn’t ideal!

I took these photos because I was stuck in the sand and had to get out and push Millie.

And this is the mini section of track with the two detours.

We stopped at Haren as we saw an Aldi and had decided to buy some salads to eat in our B&B in the evening rather than going out again. They also had English fudge!

From Haren onwards there were bicycles everywhere. We soon found ourselves riding through Groningen which was very hard work in velomobiles. You need to be agile and able to change direction quickly and that isn’t the velomobiles’ strong suit. We were slow through the city as you have to ride at normal bike pace. The stops and starts weren’t ideal for me either.

Eventually we were through the centre of Groningen (next time we’ll go round the edge!) and were about to cross the river.

Our B&B was just a kilometre from the bridge, and it was very interesting! We were staying in a caravan.

This is the bedroom area:

The bikes were stored in a huge barn.

We ate our dinner sitting outside on a picnic table watching the rabbits playing in the vegetable patch. There are ponies and alpacas in the fields around. It’s lovely and peaceful and quirky/quaint. Tea and coffee making facilities are in the caravan which of course is important.

Our total ride today ended up at 117.3km with an average speed of 20.7 km/h. For this ride my average heart rate was 118 which is a big improvement since the first day when it was 140. It’s all that cycling it’s really good for the cardiovascular system!

Tomorrow we have 108km to Harlingen and will see the sea at the north coast of the Netherlands for the first time!

1 Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018