After an eventful San Dimas and Redlands, (Redlands—We won the overall, had the yellow from day and kept it. I unfortunately pulled my calf muscle before the second stage and had to cheer from the sidelines.) our team headed back to Europe to ride Flanders, Gelderland, and a handful of other races, some which include a team time trial and individual time trial, which will be fun. But travelling at the airport with 11 bikes on an international flight, not so fun, but thank god I’m on a team who supports me because I can’t imagine footing the bill for all this myself.
Anyway, back to Holland. We are in Ter Aar right now and it’s really laid back here. We are staying at a Bed and Breakfast in the countryside. The décor consists of 1940’s artwork mixed with a dusty U2 clock and Marlboro Man poster—probably to help us feel more at home as Americans. Oh and all of these wooden owl creatures…everywhere. I keep seeing a new one every day. It’s sort of like Where’s Waldo. They remind me of the Log Lady on Twin Peaks or something. Maybe the owl sales didn’t quite take off like the carved bear statues did in America.
|One of the many owls|
And the kitchen is stocked with bread, apple bread, glazed rolls, regular rolls and greasy meats and cheese. They like Ham and Cheese here for breakfast. Pancakes for lunch or dinner, I suppose. They also have Wiener Melange coffee—the best part of waking up is a wiener in your cup. (Shall we dance to that, my dear, as the package suggests? Innuendo not intentional.) Oh and Choca, which are chocolate, sugary flecks that go on bread, usually white bread.
|Best Part of Waking Up...|
Despite all the processed foods for breakfast, the rest of Holland is pretty simple here and quite laid back. I’ve seen every type of animal so far: horses, cows, hogs (big black ones with pink bellies—I thought they were oversize boars at first. Do what you want with that innuendo but it wasn’t intentional.), goats, dogs, cats, sheep, and little baby lambs—everywhere. They’re so cute. I almost want to pull a Clarice Starling and snatch one at night. And there’s no fences. The people just have trenches filled with water around their farms. And amputee trees (I guess they cut off all the branches of the trees in the winter so they bloom again in the Spring, but in the meantime they look like Fight the Power fists, lining the roads.)
Back to the farms, I swear these moats have to have the Loch Nest Monster or imported crocodiles in them because I don’t know how these animals aren’t escaping. Maybe they’re just like meh, I like it here. There are no stop signs (I saw one in 50k and I saw one traffic light. Just roundabouts, speed bumps (that say Let op!), and yield signs. People make room for each other on the alley size two way roads and there are so many bike paths where all these people from age 3-80 ride these big crusier bikes.
But, of course, I have to disrupt the flow, right? So, I decided to ride by myself today because I wasn’t sure how the calf would be feeling (It was good. My first 2 hour ride at a normal pace since Thursday.) I got tired of riding on the bike paths and then I finally found this road that had a white line in the middle of it and a tiny shoulder. But it worked for me. So, I’m riding along and a few cars honk. I think oh, maybe I swerved or maybe they just like cyclists. I do look pretty pro. Then I see a guy in a big truck from the other lane make a hand gesture at me. I think he is flipping me off, but on second thought maybe he is giving me like a thumbs up or a hang loose gesture. Whatever. Then this big concrete-type looking truck pulls into a pullout/shoulder type area and gets out of the truck and starts walking toward me as I ride closer. I thought, uh oh. The guy is pretty good looking—as most of the Dutch are (It’s the blue jeans. They have good taste in jeans. Seriously, and loads of white t-shirts.)
Anyway, this is how our conversation went:
Guy: Blah blah blah
Guy: (mockingly) What.
Me: I don’t understand.
Guy: You can’t "ritt" here.
Me: Ride? Like my bicycle.
Guy: Yes, you can’t ride here. People go up to 80 on this road. If you make it to the end, you’ll be dead.
Me: (Imagining my corpse being pushed along the and then over the end of the road, like Where the Sidewalk Ends.) I didn’t know. Well, where should I ride?
Guy: Go that way. Right times two. You’ll see. (Walks away)
Me: Thank you. You saved my life, I guess.
Guy: (smiles) Yes, be happy about it!!!
Then I figure out that the bike/scooter/tractor sign in red circles means “No”. There were no lines through it or anything. But universally Red means no, I guess, which is kind of weird because the speed limit signs are red circles and say 60 in the middle. And the “yes” signs are just blue. So in my defense, really? I was supposed to know this. And like I said before, the highways don’t look like highways. They look like country roads, which a pleasant white line in the middle. And I found it quite endearing that someone would stop their truck, get out and warn me to get off the road. I think in America, they might just hit you or throw a coke bottle at you. Or maybe it was so bizarre that the guy must have thought I had escaped from a mental institution…or that I was American and didn’t know any better.
|This means no bikes. Seems sorta obvious on a second glance...hmmm|
Even so, my re-route was much more pleasant and even more pleasant because my calf didn’t hurt and I found some brick paths and cobbles to ride on. So I made it to about 20km outside of Utrecht, which is where one of our Dutch friends on our first trip’s flight over lives. I was thinking about riding there to say Hallo! but didn’t think my calf would want the extra 40km and it’s not like I could find him anyway—it’s like trying to find Jennifer in Tucson. On the way home, I’d see signs next to the roundabouts that sayd Ter Aar 6km, and Amsterdam 31km. I thought about how fun that would be to just cruise on into Amsterdam, but then thought maybe that wasn’t a good idea either. Besides, it was already 4:30 p.m. because well, my whole house slept 15 hours last night and we got up at 1:00 p.m. Unbelievable. Oh look it’s 10:06 p.m. I guess I’ve been up for 9 hours. Might be time to go to bed…