July 14 – Eerbeek to Arnhem
Forget the Tour de France, the Tour de Forest was on today and we were in the thick of it.
We planned a short ride today, so we could have some time for roaming and time for laundry, so we got off to a slower start. I went out for a morning run and it was lovely. A quiet Sunday morning, no one else around, the quiet country roads stretching out ahead of me, it was just great.
We packed up the Nylon Palace, after having our Speedy Gonzales showers with our allotted five minutes of hot water and it was about 9:30 before we pedalled off onto the road. After making our way through the quiet streets of Eerbeek, through some road works on our path and alongside farmland, we found ourselves in another National Park, the National Park Velewezoom. It was absolutely fabulous, pedalling along traffic free paths, through forest and then some open grassland. It was a grey morning, but not too cold and the patches of blue were trying to push their way through the clouds.
The forest surrounded us and it was lovely and peaceful…then we had some company. Up there…coming towards us…flashes of colour…voices…its a peloton! The mamils (middle aged men in lycra) were out in force and they were flying towards us! Here they come…very, very narrow path here…I’ve got a very wide load…the edge of the path is very close…here they come…
“Hallo…Goedemorgen…Hoi…Hoi…Hallo…Hallo…”, we greeted each other as one by one, they flew past. I slowed down to a crawl, held on as the group went past and tried not to wobble off the edge of the path. Sunday is obviously the day for that group to go for a…wait…wait…here comes another lot…hold on…don’t bump into any…here comes the lycra…!
“Goedemorgen…Hoi…Hallo…Hallo…Hallo…Hoi…Morgen…” the chorus of greetings were exchanged again.
We pedalled on, looking left and right at the forest around us. I was on deer and squirrel watch, but they were all obviously having a Sunday sleep in because there were none to be seen.
The forest was lovely though, those old and young trees and the sun glinting through them. It was just a wonderful place to…hang on…here they come again…it’s on…the mamils are approaching, here comes another pelaton!
“Hoi…Hoi…Hoi…Hallo…Morgen…Morgen…Hallo…,” went the chorus of greetings again.
The groups of cyclists came thick and fast, one after another, after another. In between the pelotons of mamils were the young, “riding for sheep stations” road cyclists, going absolutely flat stick along the path. Every time they came, I just tried to stay on the path and every time I was expecting to be sent flying with one of them clipping the edge of my bulky load sticking out the side. Their skill on wheels being far superior to mine though, they avoided me and we all passed one another unscathed as they whizzed past in a blur of coloured lycra.
Then, as well as the groups flying towards us, I heard voices behind. Here come the mountain bikers! There’s a peloton of them too! On the dirt path beside us, a group of lycra clad folks, with backpacks, all looking very serious and skilled and pedalling past us at a rate of knots, hurtled along that dirt path, calling out to each other as they went and disappeared into the distance. Everyone was out and about!
Apart from being in the thick of the Tour de Forest, with lycra coming from all directions, the ramblers were out in force too, with people walking dogs, or carrying backpacks and hiking along the open grassland. It was absolutely brilliant to see so many people out in the National Park, enjoying their time on two feet or two wheels and spending time with others or with families, it was great to see.
The forest was lovely and the path was great but…it was uphill! Yes, that’s right…uphill I tell you! In The Netherlands! The legs were working and the lungs were breathing a bit more than they’ve had to of late. I called behind me to Steve, “I think it’s been all uphill this morning!”
“It has,” came the reply, “we’ve already done a hundred metres of climbing.”
Now, this piece of information means absolutely nothing to me. The whole metres of ascent and descent is completely lost on me, I don’t really get it. I just know when I’ve been going uphill for quite long enough now thank you very much and when I’d quite like this downhill to go on a little longer if that’s not asking too much. Other than that, I’m a total cycling data dunce. All I knew this morning was, we were going up! Not steep, just constant. It was actually good to give the legs a bit of work again.
As we pedalled along, with cyclists, ramblers, Labradors and Daschunds on every side, we spotted a table in amongst the trees and stopped in another perfect elevenses spot.
We emerged from the forest, past the estate of Rosendael Castle, which we just caught a glimpse of and then we were in the streets of Arnhem.
From there it was a matter of getting the job of laundry done. We pedalled through the streets, found our laundrette and then sat in a cafe down the street while we waited for the laundry to do its thing. Then it rained. Then it stopped. It’s been like that the last few days…down comes the rain and the temperature drops and then the rain passes, the sun comes out and it’s lovely and warm.
When the rain stopped, we decided to go for a pedal around while we waited for laundry to dry. We rode towards the centre of Arnhem and then we stopped and I looked at the map on my phone, to see what was around us to have a look at. While we were standing there, a young man approached us. “Do you need to know where a road is?” he asked.
“No,” I said, “we’re just looking to see what there is around that we could have a look at.”
Then that very friendly man asked us what we would like to see, told us about a nice park we could visit and explained directions around.
“Thank you very much for your help,” I said.
“Of course,” he replied with a smile.
It was another moment of the friendliness of strangers. He could have kept walking past, but he noticed us looking at a phone, so made his way over to see if we needed help. Wonderful people!
Laundry job complete, we made our way to our pitstop, then headed out for a roam around Arnhem. This is a city with one of the most memorable battles of World War II. The Battle of Arnhem took place in 1944 and was supposed to be an easy victory for the Allies but it ended up being one of their heaviest defeats. The battle for the Bridge Over The Rhine lasted for days with huge losses on both sides. If the Allies could hold this bridge, the road to Germany would be open to them, but it wasn’t to be and the Allies were defeated. The bridge was defended by Lieutenant Colonel John Frost and his men until the last of their ammunition ran out. The bridge is today named John Frost Bridge.
We roamed the streets of Arnhem, through the original gates and then along the pedestrianised quarter, before making our way back to our pitstop.
It was another great day. The ride through the National Park was brilliant and it was fun to be in amongst the wheels of the Tour de Forest! Although, we didn’t really fit in, with all the pelotons looking very fit and fast and professional and we were just huffing away like cart horses with our loads! That huffing continues to take us to some amazing places though and have some fantastic experiences and today was another one. The Tour de Forest was another Tour de Fab!
Distance ridden: 26 km
Time in the saddle: 1 hour 51 minutes
Distance run: 10 km
Weather: mild, grey then sunny, rain then fine, 16C
Windmills seen: 0
People seen wearing wooden clogs: 4 (one man at the campsite, a man walking his dog, a man in the supermarket, a lady weeding her garden).