How my bicycle came to be sinking in a canal in Amsterdam, and how I got it out (and got back on the road)
As many of you saw the other day, something marvelously unexpected happened while we were in Amsterdam. Our goal for the day was to explore the city and take video of some of the cycling infrastructure here, which is really quite incredible and well worth sharing.
Anyway, we cycled into the Center, which is essentially downtown. We came to a nice place, along one of the biggest canals (can you feel the suspense building?) where we stopped to take a few pictures and videos. I pulled my bike up to the canal, all the while thinking to myself: "Wow, no railing on this canal. Don't park too close!"
So I parked a meter and a half away, approximately. Far enough that if by some strange chance the bike was to fall it still wouldn't make it to the canal.
I commenced taking pictures, my electronics bag containing my audio recorder, computer, phone, etc. remaining open since we intended to make just a quick stop. Unfortunately, after just a minute of shooting video I heard a loud crash and a splash. I looked down. MY BIKE!!!!!
I had no idea what to do.
I could...jump in?
I made a move for the canal.
How deep is it?
Can I get the bike up this wall, or even swim with it?
As these thoughts rushed through my head I moved quickly towards the bike and to the edge of the canal wall.
Jen saw where I was headed, and before I had even fully thought the thought of going submarine, she was in front of me, cutting off any chance of a daring and stupid attempt to dive in and rescue the bicycle.
And just then, as I stood helplessly watching my sinking bicycle, out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a boat moving as slow as a snail up the canal and in it a man: Geop (you-p), who I would soon come to know as "my savior". My whole entire being, in addition to my voice, called out to him. He saw my desperation.
Geop had just come down to the canal to fix his motorboat. People use boats in Amsterdam to get around, since there is a very extensive canal system. His boat was having an issue where it would die when he gave it gas.
So, very, very slowly Geop, after witnessing me preparing to dive into the canal, made his way towards my helpless perch on the canal wall as the bike slowly sank in the soggy syrup..err canal water. When he reached the wall he grabbed the bike with one hand, the wall with the other and said, "How are we going to do this? I can't lift this out alone. Do the bags come off easily."
In fact, the bags do come off quite easily, but not when they're upside down, full of water and loaded full of gear.
"I'll jump down and help you", I said, wondering if I was about to break my leg jumping off down 7-10 feet into a boat that was visibly taking on water. I didn't feel like I had much of a choice.
So I leapt into the boat, and made a brilliantly soft and stable landing. We had the bike in the boat and back on top of the canal wall within a minute or two, which is when the work really began.
All of my bags were at least half full of water. The guitar was full of water. My computer and audio recorder, my wallet, my money, my passport, clothes, merch for the tour, GPS- everything was soaked.
I took the bike and bags to an open spot near a building and just started pulling everything apart, dumping out the water. I was laughing. It was just so ridiculous! I knew the bike couldn't make it to the canal, even if it fell! How did it do that? How did Geop show up and get my bike out so quickly? How is my computer still in the bag that was open and upside down in a canal in Amsterdam for almost five minutes? Is this going to affect the trip? Am I going to make it to my show tonight? I thought and thought and laughed and laughed.
Just then, a nice lady name Judith (You-dith) biked up to me. "Hi, I'm Geop's wife. You can come to our place and do some laundry and dry your things if you want?"
"How did you get here so fast?"
"I was standing watch while Geop fixed the boat to make sure nothing went wrong." She started laughing.
"And then something went terribly wrong!" I said, breaking into laughter myself.
"Yeah", she said. "I saw it all happen."
"Really? Did you see it fall?"
"Oh, yes. It didn't just fall. The wind blew it over and then it rolled over and fell down into the canal. I was just taking pictures and laughing."
Momentum. How cruel.
So, with heavy hearts, wet shoes from standing in the half sinking boat in the dirty canal, and heavy, wet bags on a heavy wet bike I followed Judith back home, where a marathon of drying and disassembling began in earnest, and did not end for many hours.
In the end, we cleaned the stinky canal water out of everything. We did a huge load of laundry, including my sleeping bag, which was soaked with canal water. We washed all of my bags, my sleeping mat and guitar case. I dumped the water out of the guitar. They had a nice back yard and a clothes line and for most of the afternoon it didn't even rain!
We made a marathon trip to the Apple Store (the only one in the Netherlands) in crazy Amsterdam rush hour bike traffic. Think trains, cars, and about as many cyclists and motor scooters as you can imagine careening every which way. Navigating has to happen rapidly, because you literally can't get out of traffic, so I rode most of the way with my phone in hand- trying to stay ahead and know our turns.
At the Apple Store "genius" bar they removed the screws on the back of the laptop and declared, "Total loss. Sorry." Brilliant. I dried it with my shirt anyway and made plans to procure a huge amount of rice. I was determined to give it my best effort at least.
"One hour until the show tonight", I said to Jen as we stood on the sidewalk. We decided to get back to Geop and Judith's place, collect everything, get some food and cruise to West Amsterdam for the show. We managed to do it all, and we arrived with time to spare. I was still wiping water off the guitar as I tuned up for my set.
It was a great show. Super appreciative and attentive audience. There were two other bands on the bill, so I seized the opportunity to point out: "This is the only guitar that will be on this stage tonight that was strapped to a bicycle, sinking in a canal earlier this afternoon."
And it was.
We're now out of Amsterdam, cycling north along the coast. We still haven't turned on the computer, the audio recorder or my guitar preamp. We're giving them as much time as we can to dry. Cross those fingers!!