Day to Day

Day 2: Making friends and enjoying Dutch cycle paths…Europort ➡️ Tilburg (72 miles) “You’re one mad, crazy lady!”

I have a confession to make…I didn’t actually “exit stage left” quite as early as I thought I would last night. One man and his guitar was actually very entertaining, and he was cracking out hit after hit.

Once I did leave for my cabin, I prepared for bed hoping to fall off to sleep pretty quickly. I had imagined the rocking of the boat might be quite sleep-inducing (isn’t that why you rock babies to sleep?!) but this felt more like intense vibrations, as if I had ended up as a big rock in someone’s gold panning exploits.

Anyway, I must have fallen off to sleep eventually as I was awoken by some dulcet Dutch tones announcing that breakfast was being served. Luckily for me, my support crew had brought me my prepared breakfast, so I essentially had breakfast in bed!

I also have another confession to make…I stink. Already. I washed my kit last night but it turns out soap and water alone doesn’t do much for 5 hours of cycling sweat. If the 2m Covid-19 rule doesn’t keep my fellow passengers away from me, this interesting smell definitely will! Fingers crossed my Airbnb has a washing machine I can use.

We were allowed back to our vehicles just after 08:30. Bikey had made some new friends overnight. I later found out that these bikes belonged to Piers, his son Luke, and Rebecca. I packed up bikey and headed off down the helter-skelter ramp. There was a massive queue for passport control so I just did the European thing, and cycled straight to the front of the queue! The officer was interested in my ride and we ended up chatting and holding up the queue even more! I told him I was aiming for Vienna, to which he replied; “You’re one mad, crazy lady! Good luck!”

And with that, I was in the Netherlands. The actual Netherlands, on my actual bike. It all felt very surreal. I pedalled off and immediately joined the best cycle path I had ever seen, and for the next 72 miles I never once had to cycle on a busy road again. God bless the Netherlands.

Here we go…!

My route planner hadn’t kicked in yet so I just headed in a sensible direction for Rotterdam, all the way falling more and more in love with the Dutch authorities. The combination of “strict liability” i.e. it’s always the drivers fault and beautiful cycle paths is just a haven for cyclists. I’ve never seen motorists act quite like the way they do around bikes. It’s as if they would rather write their car off, perform a massive emergency stop, or anything else, just to make sure they don’t come anywhere near a cyclist! It is incredible.

I was making my way along said beautiful cycle paths and came across a barricade, “pfft” I thought, “they don’t really mean that” and proceeded to pass through. Within moments, three recognisable bikes came hurtling towards me: “it’s closed! Turn back!” It was Piers, Luke and Rebecca from the ferry. And it turns out, that when the Dutch mean roadworks, they mean roadworks.

Excellent example of town planning at its best 👏🏼

From then on, until Rotterdam 25 miles later, I joined forces with my fellow Yorkshire-people. It was so lovely to have three friendly faces to cycle with and chat away to. It made the miles tick by so quickly and as it was such a pain to get out of the port area, it was very comforting to have them with me. We would often take a wrong turning and end up on a little islet down the waterway. It was annoying to navigate but it was made a lot easier with the cycle paths and signposts to follow to Rotterdam.

Oh hey, Rebecca!

By midday we had reached the city and Piers treated us to a coffee. (Thank you again, Piers!) along with my peanut butter and jam sandwich (name a better combination) it was much needed. I then had to part ways with my new cycling friends as I needed to turn and head south.

It was boiling hot and as I made my way out of Rotterdam, the first time properly alone, I was hit with another diversion. Not what I needed in the heat of the day but thankfully, the Dutch love bikes so much, they even had cycling diversion signs. Have I said it enough: I love the Dutch.

My aim then was just to get to my Airbnb as quick as possible. I was following my route on my phone and I was ticking along nicely. One thing I have learnt, is that bike touring is SO SLOW. With a good wind, I can normally crack out 20mph+, today I was averaging about 12mph. The bike is noticeably heavier and annoyingly, the headwind from yesterday seemed to have followed me.

More beautiful cycle paths – they even have their own traffic light systems!

I stopped a couple of times to eat and drink. It was so hot, I had to keep refilling my water bottles. Everyone I asked was so helpful and friendly; from cafes who would fill my water up (and add ice) to the guy that reversed his truck down the road to check if I knew which way to follow the diversion. With about 16 miles to go, I was in a random, quaint little Dutch town and was feeling rather hot, tired and dehydrated. I parked up bikey and stuffed some fruit and nut mix into my mouth. It was rather dry and boring but I knew I needed to eat. I then begrudgingly carried on but little did I know, within a few hundred metres would be my saviour…

That cabin is my hero

Who would have thought a cabin selling icecreams and coca-cola would be just what I needed. I did a massive U-turn, parked up bikey and devoured a white magnum and full fat coke. (Don’t try this at home, kids. It’s a sure fire way to pile on the pounds, but when you’re burning around 4,000 calories a day, it’s just what you need!) 400 calories and 75g of sugar later, I felt like a new woman and arrived at my Airbnb around 17:30.

My home for the night is amazing! The main house is stunning and the garden house I am staying in, is beautiful. I was so happy to arrive to this incredible place. I was greeted by my host, Ans, who was so lovely. She left me breakfast and some bread to make sandwiches for the road. Ans also surprised me with an amazing swimming pool and then left me to take a dip in it! On a 36 degree day, it was just what I needed.

The house is right out in the countryside (amazing) so I ordered some sushi to be delivered (living the actual dream!) and started on my admin for the night – sorting breakfast, washing, sorting bikey etc. Bike touring is like running a marathon in terms of admin. I feel like there is lots of “admin” to do on a marathon – checking your watch, taking gels every 5km, drinking regularly etc. I know your pain, Kipchoge. I feel like him already and I’m nowhere near Vienna yet!

We’re having a massive thunderstorm right now but hopefully it will die down soon as I would like to get a fairly early night. One major lesson I have learnt so far is, leave as early as possible as the midday sun is a killer. So, with that in mind I will leave this here and get off to sleep so I can be up and off to Roermond as early as possible…

122 miles down…878 miles to go!

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