We head out from Edam in sunshine, something we are told has been uncommon this summer in the Netherlands.
Some still require a ferry.
Some still require a ferry.
Much of North Holland would be underwater if it were not for all the many ways the sea is kept away. Not an easy feat of engineering given how much of the land itself is under sea level. On our bicycle ride today we got to see a combination of high and impenetrable dikes and a careful system of canals with water pumps at the ready.
As global sea levels rise, may this be what coastal cities will need to do?
That is a few years away but likely inevitable. But we were not thinking about imminent flooding as we enjoyed breakfast in the garden of our Bed and Breakfast, Opperbest, in the tiny town of Opperdoes. The B&B owners set up a table in their large garden in celebration of the arrival of a nice summer day. The canals are peaceful places on this August weekend.
Even in beautiful scenery and nice weather, there is something ominous about cycling along the top of the dike with the sea on one side of you and on your other side homes and farms well below the sea. Hard to capture in a photograph but if you look closely out to sea, you can see a boat sailing on the sea at about the same level of the roof of the houses behind the dike. Here is another angle when the bike path goes along the side of the dike instead of on top of it. The bike path itself is well below the sea on the left, which you cannot see but imagine the sea on the other side above the level of Leisa’s head. When you do have to venture onto roads that need to be shared with cars, it is such a delight to note that they are designed first with the cyclist in mind requiring cars to make adjustments and not the other way around. This one is actually a two-way road but cars always need to yield to cyclists.
And the port town of Hoorn with a collection of sailing vessels going back a few centuries.
Well, cyclists do have someone else to share the road with. And staying at a Bed and Breakfast sure does beat setting up a tent and crawling into a sleeping bag. And the 65km day comes to an end in Edam, yes, as in cheese, with a nice sunset along the many canals of this town.
How sweet is it when something you love to do is shared with someone you love?
Pretty sweet. After years of talking about touring together, last weekend another bicycle joined the extended bicycle family: A nearly new Gazelle Madeo Trekking Dames. Here it is ready for its first adventure.
And here is its new owner (the one on the left).
We head out to explore the curious historical landscape north of Amsterdam and only have three days to do so we get ourselves closer by hoping on a train to Zaandam.
After a full 70km day we arrive at the village of Opperdoes and the Opperbest Bed and Breakfast with one guest room and a wonderful four course meal prepared by the B&B owners. They welcomed us as family and we shared the meal and conversation with them. Sweet indeed.
It has taken far too long to find time to gather all the parts and assemble this one but it is finally ready.
It is not as elegant looking as the Rivendell but the geometry is meant for my own gangly geometry.
Here it is before I muster the courage to cut the carbon steerer to its final length.
Ready for the first test ride. Only one brake, no handlebar tape and some simple pedals but I can’t take the suspense any longer.
On the dedicated cycling path.
Now it’s ready for a second test ride. Got pedals now, handlebar tape and brakes front and rear. Smooth ride, very responsive and fits well. A bit of a wet 40km ride.
And now some images of a 50km ride to the Hook of Holland and back. A sweet Sunday outing that concludes with a sunset on the North Sea and moments later a fullmoon rises – a moon that will be eclipsed by the earth’s shadow several hours later.
The frame was built by the tall-cycling-person expert, Lennard Zinn, in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to the frame, I ordered a crankset 200mm in length, proportional to my leg dimensions. It would have been a challenge to put this on my Rivendell A Homer Hilson, which I am happy to sell to another adventurer.
I will build this up from scratch, component by component, I hope to last a lifetime. Well. given it is made of titanium, for many lifetimes. The Netherlands, as most of the world knows, is a great place to ride. Here is the scene just a few kilometers from my new home. Dedicated bicycle lanes along the dunes. Paradise, even on a cold afternoon. Dreaming of rides to come.
And of course, our other bicycles. Single speed granny bikes that cost 149 Euros each.
A beautiful day for the UWC 50th Anniversary celebration and for the final ten kilometers of the journey across Canada and the length of Great Britain. I turn a corner a couple of kilometers from Atlantic College and see a row of bicycles along the side o the road.
About a dozen students, two teachers and former Pearson long serving teacher, Marks McAvity, are there to ride with me to the College.
I make it to the outer gate.
And then all the Canadian students come out to greet me.
I pedal through the archway to St Donat’s Castle and am met with a lot of cheers and get to chat with Her Majesty, Queen Noor, the President of UWC.
And as I dipped my back tire in the Pacific ocean when I left Pearson College, I make my way to the shoreline and dip my front tire into the Atlantic.
And one more lift of the Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen bicycle, which has served me so well for nearly 10,000 km.
And a big thanks to all who supported me and cheered me on.
Stats – for Wednesday 19 September 2012
Finish: St. Donat’s
Distance: 12 km
Time on Bike: 45 minutes
Distance for the entire Trip: 9,360 km
The sun is shining brightly on my penultimate day of the journey but really the last day of serious cycling. Getting up and over the Brecon Beacons proves to be beautiful, fun and challenging. The beacons are like a hand with the fingers pointing south and the highest part, the knuckles let’s say, in the north.
First I pass through the Welsh countryside.
So I climb up and up the first knuckle not really knowing what to expect. When I reach the top, after many false summits, I can see it is a special place. Why? Because there is a film crew with all sorts of high tech gear setting up a series of cycling photo shoots with a professional cyclist for a bicycling magazine cover.
The view from the top of the first Beacon is best seen on film.
And a few photographs too.
The steepest climb of the entire trip came today going from the bottom of one beacon to the top of another.
I have been heading for this town all week.
Just about ten kilometers left for the ride in the morning.
My bike and I settle in for one more night.
Stats – for Tuesday 18 September 2012
Distance: 78 km
Time on Bike: 5 hours 10 min
Average Speed: 15.2 km/hr
Distance to Date: 9,348 km
The first 30 km from Shrewsbury are a bit hellish as I get caught in what feels like morning rush hour on route A49 on my way to the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. Once I turn off the A49, I am back on country lanes all the way to Talgarth at the foothills of the mountains.
As I contemplate the final 100 km ahead of me, including getting up and over the Brecon Beacons, here are some images of today’s ride.
Stats – for Monday 17 September 2012
Distance: 98 km
Distance to Date: 9,270 km
I leave Runcorn later than I would have preferred because their Sunday brunch was just too inviting. I ate so much that I needed a digestive rest before getting on the road.
It is a chilly day with a headwind mixed occasionally with drizzle. Starting today, I am not relying on any suggested end-to-end routes and, with the aid of Google maps, I plot my own course. Delightfully, the option to plan a route based on walking instead of driving, takes me on fairly remote roads and paths. I am especially careful because yesterday, after seven hours of cycling, I just missed going into flight when my front wheel caught the edge of one of those traffic calming islands that are intentionally placed in the middle of the road to slow down cars. I prefer roads with no curbing at all.
I am okay sharing with an occasional tractor.
I make it to Shrewsbury just as it really begins to rain. And I notice a hotel with the name of the city in Canada where I began my continental crossing, Prince Rupert, and decide this is where I should stay. Upon sharing the story I get a deeply discounted rate.
As I plan for the next two days, I have moments of disbelief that I am now less than 200 km from Atlantic College in Wales. Pretty excited too.
Stats – for Sunday 16 September 2012
Distance: 85 km
Time on Bike: 4 hours 50 min
Average Speed: 17.6
Distance to Date: 9,172 km
Alan, like he did the day earlier, provides me a cycling escort, this time out of the city. He takes me past Lancaster University where he has a teaching post in music theory. I get to see a clever meeting room nestled in the forest, something that could fit in well at Pearson College.
It is a beautiful Saturday morning for a bicycle ride. There are far more cyclist on the road through the Bowland Forest than cars. Most are MAMILs. Middle aged men in Lycra. Much has been written about them recently and with Bradley Wiggins having won the Tour de France this summer, he has spawned many more. Packs of them pass me as I head to the Trough of Bowland. The few cyclists I am able to have a conversation with, all clad, indeed, in black Lycra shorts and flamboyant tight jerseys of the same material, tell me that this stretch of road is the best cycling in all of Britain. It is a curious combination of some of the best landscapes I have pedaled through so far. Something additional in this one is seeing hunting parties with their dogs, tweed clothing and men wearing colour coordinated ties. I cannot imagine walking in the mud and muck of these moorlands wearing a collared shirt and tie. But then again, I am not sure why men wear ties anyway.
Part of the landscape is like a lower altitude mixture of the Lake District and parts of Scotland.
After the trough of Bowland the landscape flattens out and I pick my way through lots of little towns and villages to the bridge that takes me over the Mersey to Runcorn.
Construction on the bridge has closed two lanes, and they allow cyclists on one of them. So I get to look up into the bridge structure from an unusual vantage point.
Stats – for Saturday 15 September 2012
Distance: 125 km
Time on Bike: 7 hours 20 min
Average Speed: 17.1 km/hr
Distance to Date: 9,087 km