As we prepare to pedal our bicycles out of the lovely Dutch countryside and into Germany tomorrow, we find ourselves reflecting on our last two weeks, and feel the strong desire to share some of the sights and sounds with all of you.
A storm passes over the countryside.
The Dutch have implemented sensible, functional and complete cycling infrastructure not only in cities, but also on virtually every road throughout the countryside. The level of safety cycling here is substantially higher than anywhere we've cycled in the U.S., including bike capitols like Minneapolis, MN and Portland, OR. The intersections are well signed, often with lights specifically for cyclists, and a huge network of signed cycling routes covers the country like a spiderweb. Additionally, the whole country is extremely flat, making pedaling here as peaceful and carefree as long distance riding can be.
People of all ages ride bicycles as their mode of transportation, and even young children take cycling holidays with their parents.
Even the mail arrives by bicycle in the Netherlands!
Camping is an economical choice for tourists visiting Amsterdam, which meant camping in the area looked like this.
Paul's bike also wound up in a canal in Amsterdam, which you can read all about in the post below. He recovered it and we still left Amsterdam on time and in good spirits.
LF 1, one of many mapped and signed long-distance bike routes in the country, took us north from Amsterdam along the coast and through some lovely sand dunes.
Paul, characteristically happy and all the more so since his bicycle is recovered and running smoothly.
Narrow roads with reddish cycling lanes are a very common site in rural areas here in Holland.
Playing a cool game, Carcassonne, with our warm showers hosts. Always great to spend time with local cyclists!
Harrie, a local, and our generous host, demonstrates the use of a popular condiment for bread here in Holland: chocolate sprinkles. (More below...)
Apparently Dutch people never leave their homeland without their Hagelslag (literal translation: hail-punch, actual meaning: sprinkles, available in a variety flavours, here shown in Chocolate) and Pindakaas (peanut butter, which to our horror is fabled to be less available in greater Europe than we'd ever dared to imagine.)
Sheep in awe.
Rooftops throughout the Dutch countryside are thatched with reeds, which apparently have a very high insulation value, but in the event of a fire, they burn very rapidly.
The whole country is covered with a maze of man-made canals, which you may remember from earlier. The canals are used for water management and transportation. They also provide water for livestock and we think it's likely that they're used for irrigation as well.
Views of small town Holland.
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!!
We made it to Amsterdam! The Freedom From Fuel Tour has officially gone international.
We have the good fortune to have a wonderfully kind and helpful friend who works for Delta who helped us get standby tickets for a fraction of the price of normal plane tickets. When you fly standby, you know that you will get to where you need to go, but you can't be sure when you will get there. We were super lucky- we not only both got a seat on the first flight we tried, but the seats were next to each other, and in first class! It was a ridiculously luxurious experience. We felt very grateful, if not a bit guilty, enjoying a celebratory glass of champagne and being able to watch our pick of movies, recline to horizontal, and wash our faces with warm, lemon-zest-imbued wash cloths. What a way to kick off the tour!
We got to Amsterdam around noon local time, and set to work putting our bicycles back together. Even using big Amtrak boxes (69 x 41 x 8.5"), we had to disassemble our recumbents more than standard bikes. We were a bit dazed from the 7 hour time difference and only a few hours of sleep, but we were happy to be outside in the sunshine!
A veritable bicycle tunnel! It goes under a runway, right outside the airport.
A bicycle DETOUR!!! It seems that in the U.S. nobody takes the time to implement anything to help cyclists if their path is closed. For example, we came to a similar bike/ ped bridge in Virginia on our East Coast trip this past summer, only to find it closed, impassable, and with no suggested detour. Here, they have poured a concrete path around the construction, which lead to a short temporary bridge onto the half of the bridge that remained. Really outstanding care for cyclists here in the Netherlands!
Biking through a park southwest of Amsterdam.
A few shots of the communal kitchen at our camping-hostel near Amsterdam for our first evening in Europe.
We're very excited to explore Amsterdam over the next couple days, then head off to explore more of Europe. Below are the shows Paul is playing in Europe, which gives you an idea of our route. If you know anyone along our route who we should say hello to, let us know!
2016 European Tour Dates
5 July Amsterdam, NL De Nieuwe Anita
22 July Cologne, DE Kulturcafe Lictung
24 July Stopperich, DE Solawi Stopperich
26 July Kriftel, DE HP Velotechnik
28 July Mannheim, DE Kulturbrucken Jungbusch
29 July Maisbach, DE SoLawi Rhein-Neckar
30 July Ludwigsburg, DE House Concert
5 August Munich, DE Kaffee Giesing
6 August Munich, DE Ligsalz8
14 August Degersheim, CH Oekodorf Sennruti
15 August Winterthur, CH VeloPlus
17 August Zurich, CH Bar 3000
23 August Freiburg, DE Anti-Atom Freiburg
26 August Strasbourg, FR Bretz-selle
27 August Cologne, DE Klimacamp
9 September Paris, FR Cyclo Camping Intl.
21 September Lille, FR University of Lille
23 September Brussels, BE House Concert
24 September Lovendegem, BE Cohousing Vinderhoute
28 September Amsterdam, NL Einde van Wereld
Engineering success! My new guitar from Journey Instruments made its maiden voyage yesterday. The case now converted to a pannier has traveled 76 miles so far. It worked perfectly! I think it's ready for the long haul. HP Velotechnik International #freedomfromfueltour #ortliebusa#staydry #hpvelotechnik
Today we caught a train in Washington, D.C. Pretty awesome to roll some fully loaded bikes into Union Station! We're en route to a few shows in the Midwest before hopping a plane to Europe. #freedomfromfueltour #unionstation #cycling #loadedtouring #biketour #cycling #cyclinglife
We rolled and we rolled, through Iowa and Minnesota, along Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, through Chicago and south through Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee. We crossed the mountains in North Carolina, and rode the Piedmont east to Durham then north through Virginia. Today we arrived in Washington, D.C., pedaling under the spitting clouds and feeling the disbelief so characteristically present at the end of a long journey. The world is a lovely place. Thank you all for your support and love along the way. #freedomfromfueltour