July 10 – Winschoten to Westerbork
Today had a bit of everything. Changeable scenery, some familiar challenges, some open road and…no rain…and…hardly any wind! You little bee-yoo-tee!
We pedalled off this morning, along a dedicated bike path, to begin our day of “Bicycle Bingo”. One of the great things about riding in The Netherlands is their Junction Network system of cycle routes. There are routes and paths all around the country and they all have numbers, which are then placed on signs to direct you where to go. This is different to the numbered route markers in other countries, this is a detailed system of numbers that direct you along various routes and paths. It’s brilliant. Last night we decided where we wanted to head to, we looked it up on the map, the numbers were there along the route we wanted to take, Steve told me the series of numbers, in order, that we’d have to follow and I wrote them down….94, 96, 98, 88, 86, 4, 84… Then, all we needed to do was look for the signs, follow our numbers in the order we wrote them down and BINGO, we’d have directions to our destination. Our approach to this system involves me having a list of numbers on a piece of paper and calling out the next one we need to look for as we pedal along. We still have the GPS, but as we rode along today, we’d check the numbered signs to make sure we were on track.
“What’s our next number?” Steve would call from in front.
“Fifty-four,” I would call back. Then, off we pedal, following the direction of the 54 on the sign. So I was bingo caller today and we played the numbers, then ticked them off as went and we had a great ride.
The day didn’t start completely smoothly though. Our nemesis followed us. We’ve had umleitungs in Germany, omvejs in Denmark and today the omleidings found us. Road block. Detour. Here we go again. We happily tootled along, following our numbers when that familiar sight came into view. A barrier. A barrier across the path. A barrier across the path and a sign with a bike symbol saying not to go any further.
“Well, we need to go that way,” said Steve.
We bypassed the barrier to have a look. Maybe we could get through. We snuck down the path, hoping we might able to make our way through somehow, but as we turned a corner, it became abundantly clear why the path had that sign and barrier on it. The path with blocked. Not just blocked, but completely swallowed by a bank of dirt, as if a new levee was being built. Okaaay, we get the message, we obviously can’t go that way.
Steve consulted the map. “What’s our next number?” The path we were on said “88”.
“Ninety-eight,” I replied with the authority of a bingo caller with twenty years experience at the bowls club. “We haven’t seen ninety-eight yet, we should have passed ninety-eight before we got to eighty-eight.”
We backtracked, saw a sign for “98”, followed it and there was the familiar yellow sign. Detour. Nothing to do but follow that detour sign…and the next one…and the next one.
Then we passed a map beside the path and we stopped to scrutinise the lines and numbers of the network of routes. “If we follow this path, we can join up with our next number,” concluded Steve, after close inspection.
So after a few extra kilometres thanks to the detour, we eventually got back on track, caught up with our sequence of numbers and we were back in the game.
We then had a perfectly straight ride, along a long straight path / street / lane, not quite sure what you’d call it, but it was quiet and went through some lovely neighbourhoods and ran beside a canal. It was quiet, the wind was nothing more than a light breeze and it was terrific.
Following our numbers, we pedalled into Stadskanaal, where we found a bench for elevenses, then on we went, along the path and out into the country.
We had open country, alleyways of trees, canals to cross and towns to pass through. It was great to have such changing scenery and landscapes to look at as we pedalled along.
Then came the forest. We had a long, peaceful, wonderful ride through a forest. The trees loomed above us and spread out around us. We passed other cyclists with their panniers, pedalling through in the opposite direction, sometimes stopping to consult a “bicycle bingo” map on the side of the path.
We saw a table in amongst the trees and declared it a perfect spot for lunch, so we stopped in the quiet of those trees, with no sound but the rustling of a mouse inspecting the fallen leaves for whatever it is mice look for in such places.
Before long though, it became Grand Central Station, with cyclist after cyclist pedalling past, another group stopping at a table nearby to also enjoy this perfect spot and we watched and waved as fellow two-wheelers enjoyed their route through the forest.
We continued on and the forest continued on with us. I saw two deer, but they took to their hooves before I had a chance to get the camera out. We did see some forest inhabitants though…cows. Just like New Forest ponies, only cows, roaming free range through the trees. They stopped and stared at us as we pedalled past, the little calves giving us a quizzical look before ambling off.
We emerged from the forest into quiet streets and continued to play our bingo numbers.
“All the sixes, sixty-six,” I called as we pedalled along, with the signs to guide us. Then we passed the sign for “90”, the last number on our card and we pedalled into the little village of Westerbork, our pitstop for the day. It’s a small, peaceful little place and we took a leisurely stroll up its one street, to collect some supplies. People sat in the cafes lining the street, cyclists pedalled through and it was a lovely spot to end our day.
A day of our own “bicycle bingo”, as we played our numbers and every one of them came up, so we were winners again! Our prize was a top day with a great ride, some lovely scenery, peaceful paths or quiet roads and a nice little village to round it all off. We continue to be winners on this adventure of ours…wonderful places, wonderful people, magic scenery and amazing experiences. Every day is a prize. Tomorrow we’ll cross off our numbers again and see what the game delivers. People…places…sights…adventure…BINGO!
Distance ridden: 68.7 km
Time in the saddle: 4 hours 21 minutes
Weather: mild, light wind, sunny then a bit grey, 17C