Sunday, September 14, 2008

"truly difficult cycling conditions"

We rode out of Sneek on Thursday and pedalled across the aufsliutsdijk (30+kms on a dike).  The weather was absolutely perfect and sunny with light winds...that is until we turned south toward Hoorn.  A strong wind blowing directly in our faces brought driving rain and truly difficult cycling conditions.  A local cyclist saw us & asked us where we were going; when I said "Hoorn?", he paused and said, "Hoorn?...Sheet!...No, dis ees Medimblik".  We were wet & cold & we just wanted a roof over our heads, so we said, "Okay, Medimblik is good!". The local VVV (tourist information) booked a room at a local guest house & we went straight there.
  The next morning we began our ride toward Hoorn under dark skies, and the weather quickly deteriorated into driving rain with fierce headwinds.  After becoming thoroughly soaked and  frustrated by more rain, we turned the bikes toward Alkmaar to cash some Amex travellers cheques.  From Alkmaar, we headed toward Haarlem, but were forced off the bikes by more driving rain and dropping temperatures; we found shelter in a family-run hotel in Castricum.  We ate fried hamburgers and French fries for dinner (hey, we're on vacation after all).  The next morning we pedaled away from the hotel under ominous skies that began spitting rain within 15 minutes of our departure, and headed for Haarlem.  Diana found a fabulous B&B just out of town & we had a relaxing (read "warm & dry") evening there.  Today was spent seeing the sites of Haarlem, taking pictures, and drinkingcoffee & tea on the Grote Market in Haarlem-- it has been wonderful.
More pictures will be posted upon our return.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's Hard to Believe that it has been a whole week!

Pictures from our journey so far. We are in Sneets at a library which is about to close. We thought we'd share a few photos from the trip so far. We're having a wonderful time in the rain and the sunshine. It's a beautiful country with friendly, helpful people. We'll make more entries soon. So far all of our gear is working perfectly. Even on cold and rainy days we've been comfortable. Because of limited internet access, we will greatly enhance this blog and the photo album when we return. Thanks for following along...

This is how the bikes look before assembly


Outside the apartment in Amsterdam.

Traveling out in the country. Sometimes it rained!

NavigatingCranking over the bicycle ferry to cross a canal.

At the Kruller-Muller Museum.

Leaving our hotel in Ede. It started raining 5 minutes after this.

Heading out for dinner in Epe. More rain.

A typical sign post showing the numerous bike paths. These are handy when things get confusing.

Riding in the sunshine yesterday!

In Heerenveen on Tuesday. Walking along the canal.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tilting @ Windmills

We arrived in Kampen on Monday afternoon after enjoying mostly fair conditions through the day of cycling. We discovered the wind that turns all of these windmills. As we approached Kampen dark skies loomed. Just as we arrived the rain began and it poured for half an hour. We took refuge at the train station before entering into town. We stopped at the VVV information center and they directed us to a wonderful B&B. We toured the medieval streets and had a picnic dinner in the park.

On Tuesday the weather turned and we were treated with blue skies and warm temperatures. We cycled about 88 kilometers to Herenveen. Much of the afternoon we spent navigating rural roads and trails. Some of the trails were hard-packed single-track dirt and stone. This takes a lot of concentration on 28mm tires carrying 35 pounds of equipment on the bikes. It took about 5 and a half hours to travel and navigate.

Everyone we have encountered has been friendly. When we stop to check the map, strangers approach and ask if we are lost and offer assistance. Meeting the locals has been one of our greatest pleasures along the way.

Monday, September 8, 2008

And The Adventure Continues

Diana & I enjoyed our time in Amsterdam on Wednesday & Thursday, but were glad to get on the bikes and pedal toward Ede. We thought that following the numbered bicycle paths would be a piece-of-cake, but we soon came to realize that the entire country is covered with paths, some with numbers and some without (and some numbered paths that seem to evaporate into nothingness when we enter a town). The first day of cycling was 118km in length, but because we became lost about a dozen times, the ride took 9.5 hours to complete. Saturday we visited the magnificent Kroller-Muller museum near Appeldoorn. Yesterday we rode 87kms in the rain and wind. Discovered a quaint hotel in the town of Epe & took refuge from the foul weather. Today we head toward Kampen via Zwolle--we hope the sun decides to join us!
More to come...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

We made it to Amsterdam!

Diana and I made it to Amsterdam yesterday & we love this place! We spent yesterday recovering from the interminable flight over, re-assembling the bicycles, taking a 2-hour nap, walking & cycling through Vondelpark, drinking coffee & tea, and generally exploring a small section of this huge city. The weather here is unpredictable and changes several times throughout the day. It is very similar to late fall weather in Greenville, but there is much more WIND!!
To say that this is a bicycling-based culture is an understatement. Everyone rides bikes here. . .we mean everyone--schoolchildren, pregnant women, businessmen (in their suits), fashion models, folks going to the grocery store, young and old, etc. Every single person we have met here has been friendly and helpful; the Dutch are wonderful! Tomorrow we get on our bikes and pedal toward Ede on the first leg of our tour. Safely getting out of this bustling city with fully-loaded bicycles will certainly be an adventure!
We have attempted to use the "Spot" GPS device & we hope that it is working. We will turn it on as we leave in the morning.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gear Review: Ritchey BreakAway Cyclo-Cross Bikes

Anyone that knows the two of us can attest to the fact that at our core, we are gearheads! We just LOVE trying out cool stuff. During the course of this Netherlands trip, we'll be publishing gear & clothing reviews. We feel that when it comes to discerning the merits of a particular technical product, there is no substitute for using that product in real-world environments. For those readers who don't care a whit for product reviews, look for our normal blog entries which (depending upon the availability of the internet in our specific destinations) should be posted almost daily.

For those of you who have never heard of the Ritchey BreakAway line of bicycles, here's a brief overview of why they are so incredible.

The frame actually breaks into 2 pieces that allow the traveling cyclist to pack his/her entire bike (including both wheels, seat, etc.) into a 26"X26"X10" case. The bike is a normal bike with 2 frame unions that are ingenious! The first picture shows what the top frame union looks like (basically the seatpost acts as the stress-bearing member & the two frame pieces-- 1 grey & 1 orange-- are secured to the seatpost using pinchbolts).

The second picture shows the bottom frame union (it is secured by the black split-clamp immediately above the bottom-bracket on the downtube).

If you are an avid cyclist & want to take a top-shelf bike with you on your travels, take a look at the Ritchey BreakAway series! We chose the steel Cyclo-Cross model because it was the best frame for carrying panniers & able to withstand the stresses of loaded touring. The cyclo-cross model also allows you to use fatter 700c tires that make you more stable when navigating rough roads. I (Jonathan) have already logged more that 2600 kms this year on mine, and I love it! It rides just like a normal bike, and in a 60cm frame size weighs in at just 21 pounds! Not too shabby for a bike that fits in airline regulation luggage. Check 'em out at: