July 17 – Amersfoort to Woerden
We have been to school. We can count numbers. We can read numbers. We can even add numbers. Today we just had a slight problem finding and keeping numbers.
This morning started with a wonderful surprise…sunshine! I think this is the first morning we’ve had in The Netherlands that hasn’t been grey. We had sun to start and the sun stayed wth us all day and it was brilliant.
Before we headed off, Steve consulted the route map and read me the list of numbers we needed to follow, which I wrote down and put in my pocket for easy reach when I needed to be bingo caller. With that done, we were ready to hit the path and pedal on. We turned onto the bike lane in the streets of Amersfoort and joined the peak morning commuter bike traffic as we made our way out of the city. We found our first number and followed the arrow on the 99 sign and cruised along. The path turned a corner and we followed it, along with the other two-wheelers around us, then Steve stopped.
“I don’t know where we’re going,” he said.
“We’re on the ninety-nine.”
“Yeah, but I only turned left because the path went this way, I think we’re going the wrong way and should have turned right.” He started looking at the map on the GPS. “Wrong way,” he announced, so we back tracked to the corner and headed the other way. Y’know when you get that feeling pretty darn quick that things aren’t as they should be? Well, we got that.
“I don’t this this is right either,” the navigator informed me.
We were now on a “road” that wasn’t really a road and it didn’t look like a bike path and we were sort of beside and under a train station car park. A lady gave us a cheery smile and greeting, which I returned, while still maintaining an ominous feeling of ‘I don’t think we should be here.’ We kept going until we were in an actual car park, only to find ourselves on the wrong side of the boom gate. Big clue there, that we weren’t where we were supposed to be. We lifted the bikes up a gutter, over an island and around the boom gate and continued on, only to be confronted by tall gates and an industrial looking area beside the railway line. Nope. That definitely ‘aint a cycle route!
“We need to be up on that road,” said Steve, pointing up a bank in front of us.
“Maybe we should have stayed on the bike path,” I suggested, “and it would have continued up and around in the right direction. I reckon there would have been a sign to tell us to get off it, if we had to.”
“Yeah,” agreed the navigator, “let’s just try and get up here first.”
So we pedalled back again, then up and out of the car park, onto a path beside the road and then we eventually saw one of our numbers. Bingo! We were now going in the right direction and back on track!
We managed to see every number we needed and turned off the path beside the road and into another glorious forest. It was fabulous. One second we were beside noisy traffic and the next we were in the peace and tranquility of trees and twittering birds. Perfect.
This was probably the nicest forest we’ve ridden in. The path was great and sealed, although uphill again! We weaved through the trees and then the landscape changed and there was what looked like sand dunes beside us, then the thick forest again. We passed other cyclists and walkers and the sun shone and it was warm and wonderful.
That forest turned into another nature reserve and part of the route through there took us onto a disused airfield. We pedalled down what used to be a runway, with a military museum off to our right, then we had the massive big runway beside us and if only the fence hadn’t been there, I reckon Steve would have done the Top Gear challenge in a “reasonably priced car” equivalent on the bike and gunned it down that runway. Instead, he had to be content with the shorter airstrip and leave dreams of speed behind.
We followed our numbers, successfully spotting each one and made our way onto a quiet road, beside fields and then spotted a deer. It was happily grazing in a paddock beside a cornfield all on its own, with all that green to itself.
I reached into my pocket to get my list of numbers so I could check which one we needed to look for next. I couldn’t feel it. I reached further into my pocket and felt around and…nope, my pocket was empty.
“Oh no,” I said to Steve, “the numbers have fallen out of my pocket!”
“It doesn’t matter, we’ll just wait until we get to a sign with a map.”
“No, I’ll go back and look for them.”
Steve rolled his eyes.
I did a u-turn and started back the way we’d come, scanning the side of the road for my piece of cardboard. I pedalled and pedalled and pedalled and began wondering how far I would allow myself to go before I gave up and realised it was silly to add extra distance backwards in search of a list of numbers. Still, I like having the numbers. They’re our guide. I pedalled and scanned and pedalled and scanned and then..there it was, my little piece of white cardboard on the side of the road waiting or me, half a kilometre backwards. I picked it up, returned it to my pocket, firmly zipped my pocket back up and then turned and headed back in the right direction. My bingo calling duties could resume.
We were on a path beside a busy road as we entered the outskirts of Utrecht, a fairly big city. We passed one of our numbered signs and kept pedalling straight ahead towards the city centre. The bike traffic got thicker and we were in amongst it, with bikes coming from the left, bikes coming from the right, bike intersection after bike intersection. Where’s the number? I haven’t seen a number for a while. Too busy to stop, too much bike traffic to pull over. It was fast paced and a bit stressful, no chance of stopping, just go with the tide of wheels. Come on, where’s that darn number? There were other signs saying it was the cycle route, but no numbers. We eventually spotted a place where we could pull off the path and get out of the way of bike traffic enough to take stock of where we were.
“I haven’t seen a number,” said Steve, echoing my thoughts. “What number are we looking for?”
“We should be on eighty-eight and the next one will be ninety.”
“Let’s head for the centre and find a place to stop and look at the map.”
I spotted a park across the road. “Or there, where it’s peaceful.”
So we pedalled across to the park, found a seat and it was time for elevenses anyway. While elevenses was had, Steve looked at the map. “Is thirty-two one of our numbers?”
“Well we’ve missed a turn somewhere.”
After checking the map it seemed we hadn’t had to go into the thick of all that bike traffic after all and our route should have skirted us around the city. Still, we were here now and we’d blundered with numbers for the third time today. Steve found a route that would eventually join back up to where we needed to be and we headed off down the street.
We were back in the rapids of bikes, with intersections on the bike roads and bikes coming from all directions. One of the things that makes this a bit stressful is we haven’t a clue what the road rules are here, we simply can’t work them out. We’ve sat near intersections, watching cars, trying to work out who gives way to who and just when we think we’ve worked out the system, we see something that’s the opposite of what we thought. It’s not as simple as the reverse of home, because we’re on the other side of the road and there’s no “give way to the top of the T” at intersections and…anyway, let it just be said it has confused and befuddled us and so when we have to give way to bikes and sometimes cars and we haven’t a clue of the rules, it’s a bit frazzling!
We eventually got onto a quieter path beside the canal, spotted another windmill for our efforts and pedalled along, drawing breath and calming our frazzled nerves.
“This is why I am VERY nervous about riding in Amsterdam,” I said to Steve, “it’s going to be this multiplied by a hundred!”
The rest of the ride was thankfully quieter, on quiet bike roads. Even those that allowed cars on them to access houses had signs telling the cars that bikes ruled the roost on this particular street and cars were to play second fiddle at all times.
We rode into Woerden and then through a quiet neighbourhood, where we found our pitstop. We assembled the Nylon Palace on a nice grassy spot beside a canal, with ducks saying hello and had some lunch in the sun.
We took a stroll back into town to get supplies, had a look around yet another nice, neat-as-a-pin Dutch town, saw another windmill and sat in a cafe overlooking a square for a post ride cuppa and beer. Day done.
It was absolutely brilliant to have a start to finish sunny warm day because it’s been a while coming. We had some nice scenery again, a lovely forest ride, another nice town and all was splendid, except we were numbskulls with the numbers. Dopes with the digits. Failures of followers. Then to cap it all I go and lose the darn numbers, which thankfully were found again but only after unnecessary backwards pedalling. Oh, it’s all part of the fun and games of bike travel! Another day tomorrow, another day with the numbers. I will pocket them firmly and will be searching so diligently for each and every sign that you could put a deer-stalker on my head, a pipe in my mouth and call me Sherlock! Just follow the numbers…it’s elementary my dear Watson!
Distance ridden: 46.7 km
Time in the saddle: 3 hours 5 minutes
Windmills spotted: 2
Weather: sunny, warm, no rain and no wind! 23C