You’ve Got to Have Vocab…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 18, 2009 by alexhamlin

Picture 20While most of the Dutch speak excellent English, part of the fun in moving around a foreign country is picking up a little of the language—and laughing off the embarrassment of inevitable mispronunciations. Fortunately Rachael is nearly fluent, and has been teaching me as we spin along the bikepaths. With that in mind, here are a few words (and about the full extent of my vocabulary) that anyone interested in cycling through The Netherlands needs to know:

Fiets: Bike
Fietspad: Bikepath
Landelijke Fietsroute: Regional Bike Route
Links-af: Left Turn
Rechts-af: Right Turn
Recht door: Straight on
Uitgezonderd: Except (often shown below Do Not Enter sings, paired with a picture of a bike to indicate that bikes are allowed to go the ‘wrong way’.
Pas Op: Watch Out! (Warning signs)
Drempels: Speed Bumps
Windmolen: Windmill
Konijntje!: Rabbit! (not on signs, but more useful as a warning than you might imagine.)

The Road Ahead

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2009 by alexhamlin

MapOur fourteen-day journey will take us on a long, counter clockwise tour of the entire country of The Netherlands. (As I’m learning, there are important distinctions between Holland (which just refers to the southern part of the country around Amsterdam) and The Netherlands, (the whole country). We began with a short spin down to Utrect, which helped us work out the kinks in our systems (more on that later), and will finish with a long, ferry-assisted day from Harlingen out to the Frisian islands in the North Sea, leading back down to Haarlem, just west of Amsterdam.

Along the way, we’ll be riding up to 80 miles a day, though we haven’t barred ourselves from experiencing a little of classic European rail travel if time and our legs warrant it. Our itinerary will bring us through the hometowns of Rachael’s maternal family, many of whom have been gracious enough to open their homes to two sweaty, tired Americans for a night. Where Rachael doesn’t have family, we’ll play it fast and loose between hostels and hotels, which we haven’t reserved on the theory that a little uncertainty leaves room for serendipity.

With that in mind, this itinerary is subject to rapid and drastic change. So if you’re in The Netheralnds and would like to join us for a kilometer or two, please, by all means get in touch. Just don’t wait for us on the Fietspad based on the following; there are simply too many wonderful choices here to stick too stiffly to a plan.

July 12th: Arrive in Amsterdam
July 13th: Amsterdam to Utrecht (~80km)
July 14th: Utrecht to Den Hague (~120km)
July 15th: Den Hague to Breda (~115km)
July 16th: Breda to Heeze (~80km)
July 17th: Heeze to Maastricht (~95km)
July 18th: Masstricht to Posterholt (~50km)
July 19th: Posterholt to Nijmegen (~100km)
July 20th: Nijmegen to Almelo (~125km)
July 21st: Almelo to Zwolle (~60km)
July 22nd: Zwolle to Gronigen (~115km)
July 23rd: Gronigen to Harlingen (~125km)
July 24th: Harlingen to Haarlem (~125km)
July 25th: Haarlem to Amsterdam (~25km)
July 26th: Spent in Amsterdam

Getting Started

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16, 2009 by alexhamlin

While spending our Saturday in Portland’s lovely international terminal was thrilling for Rachael and me, losing the day of preparation and sightseeing we had planned in Amsterdam threw a wrench in the spokes of our carefully tuned schedule. So instead of a relaxing Sunday spent sleeping off our jet lag, walking the canals and mixing up cafés with coffee shops, we had to assemble and clip into our bicycles almost at once.

After many months of deliberation, we had decided to bring our own bikes rather than try to rent or buy bikes in Amsterdam. While bringing our own bikes certainly offered advantages (a familiar seat, a comfortable geometry, a passing knowledge of its foibles), international baggage charges on bicycles complicate the calculus. At $150.00 per bike, each way, it’s not hard to spend more getting a bike to Holland than the 10-year-old steel frame is worth. But while it felt a little like bringing sand to a beach party, having our own bikes turned out to be a good decision for us. Fresh off our flight, we knew we’d be able to be up and rolling in no more that an hour.

We were greeted at the airport by Rachael’s uncle Paul, who, despite living an hour away in Den Hague, drove up to meet our plane and bring us into the city. We couldn’t have been more grateful; without his help, we would have been assembling our bikes next to the baggage carousal. As it was, he drove us into the heart of the city, bought us pancakes and coffee, (pannekoeken is my favorite Dutch word of the day) and found a quiet canal on which to reconstruct our bikes.

And so, wheels on, brakes tuned, and panniers fully loaded, we struck out for Utrecht.  Fourteen days of riding through Holland lie ahead; we couldn’t be more excited.

Away We Go…Again!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 12, 2009 by alexhamlin

Ticket

And away we go! Today, for the second morning in a row, we loaded our bags, our bikes and our sleepy selves into a taxi and said good-bye to Portland. It had rained last night, and the damp streets and melancholy sky suited our mellowed anticipation for the journey ahead. But while yesterday’s six-hour delay-turned-cancellation had softened our enthusiasm for the trans-Atlantic flight, once the engines roared to life and the runway began to drop away beneath us, Rachael and I shared a giddy smile. We were on our way!