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!

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