Netherlands

One should measure oneself not by ones dreams but the fulfillment of those dreams.

Bike dreams
Well we departed Xanten Germany with its 4000 years of history and found ourselves back riding the dikes along the river, occasional dropping down into a village or just riding along side, every once in a while climbing back to the top.  Once I thought I would rush up and rest, while waiting for Jeanne to catch up, but alas as I hit the summit 4 or 5 meters above where we had been and looked back to begin my rest; alas there was Jeanne right behind, just cruising along without a care.  So much for rest.  

Then we noted a beer garden ahead and beside it along side the road coming up to the dike was a German flag and on the other side of the road a Netherlands flag.  The border.  Barely a line and being European Union no control between countries, but a very distinct difference.  From the beer garden we heard German being spoken and at a bench on the Dutch side three people were speaking Dutch, which we had not as yet heard.  Only a political line but things change, hard for me to describe.  I never have figured out how come there is such a distinction just with an arbitrary line.

The dikes were shall I say neater, (maybe) and the bikes changed.  German bikes were cruisers and would easily be recognized in the United States as general bikes.   The bikes in Holland for the most part were more utilitarian, no fancy lightweight things but bikes built for everyday use to and from somewhere for something, often with baskets or boxes, almost always with kickstands, and full chain guards. (Bottom and top chain protector) one sits upright.  And still a large number of e bikes with little old fat ladies roaring past us.  

Then there were the road bikes.  We saw very few in Germany but now there were pelatons of 20 or so riders racing along in a whir.  Side by side and 10-15 deep.  But the track is a two lane track and they did not slow much for oncoming traffic which scared Jeanne a bit.  I usually kept riding to the right but Jeanne usually stopped and pulled off.  They were generally flying along at speed.

passing the pelaton
 
But in general it was a delightful afternoon.  Had reservations in the city of Nijmegan through booking.com and the GPS took us winding through some narrow streets.  On arrival from the countryside we joined numerous bike riders just going wherever in the city, along the bike path beside the road next to the sidewalk.  We are learning to watch the signal lights.  There are car signals, pedestrian signals, and bike signals, of which going the same direction can all be different.  More than once we wait

then a signal for bikes to go, it turns green but the pedestrian signal does not.  And when you hit the button often it does not just wait for the car signals to clear but gives a specific right of way to bike or pedestrian.  But

we rode into town with a continuous line of bikers going here and there.  But the GPS took us to the Prikkels sign which was our hotel except this was an ice cream shop.  I went in inquiring about the hotel and it was the right place, just no hotel sign, only ice cream, so I bought an ice cream cone.  Now this is a hotel.  

Hotel Pikkels

A delightful place only open as a hotel for two months and the steepest staircases yet to the second floor.  No wasted space on staircases here. 
no wasted space on staircase
  
lots of space
  
room with a view
 
   And another delightful evening wandering about and another superb meal.  Is there bad food anywhere along this trip? We have not found it

But booking rooms is becoming a necessity as we realize We cannot just wander about looking for a guesthouse, hotel or whatever as often we do not know what to look for.  And now getting closer to the end, hotels, seem difficult to find, so we agree to nearly 90 k tomorrow and get to Rotterdam in another 70 k.  Will be some of our biggest days.  

So we ride skipping the GPS directions and sticking to the dikes along the river and a ferry ride across to the north side and the city of Gorinchem and our first motel similar to ones along the freeway at home.  And no restaurants nearby except Macdonalds so we eat at the motel restaurant and it was bad.  Deep fried breaded stuff.  Went to Macdonalds for desert and coffee.  It was nice riding today but not our best day together, but only 80 k as overrode the GPS.  For whatever reason it does not like dikes even though it shows them and definitely does not like ferries.  

Then our last day riding through the city which is no problem as seems there is always a bike path.  The GPS often guides us through countryside in the midst of the city.  Delightful.  Over the bridge and the Rhein river is big here, especially when compared to 26 days ago between Andermatt and Disentis Switzerland.

Rhein river near the mouth at Gorinchem

I had concluded when putting in waypoints and for the map it was going to be a navigational day, and it was.  I can’t count the number of times I told Jeanne we are lost again.  4 ways of navigating, GPS, the map, directional bike signs for the route, and just heading downriver.  If 3 out of 4 agree that is good, but often total disagreement.  GPS wants the shortest without ferries, and today it shows a total of 150 kilometers getting near Rotterdam and going back to the last bridge at Gorinchem to cross to the north side, signs in Holland have become sporadic and one does not necessarily know if they point the route to the east or west.  And the map shows no detail but does show what may be a more scenic route which is where I get my GPS waypoints from.

And it was delightful, through little villages and out into the countryside of farm fields. On and on but getting lost and going backwards, generally having a great time just riding our bicycles.   

rhein river delta riding
 
We had seen on the map an area which said national park.  Now what could be here to make a national park?  Well it turns out quite a lot.  We are in the delta area of which people told us the Rhein is not really a river at its mouth but a series of canals all over.  Well we came to the park headquarters and museum hidden in a mound of dirt.  DeBiesbosch National Park.   

Museum nationaal Park DeBiesbosch
     
A movie was shown in English and learned the history of the area from the year 1421 when work began on utilizing the area often flooded with either River floods or high storm tides from the ocean.  Over the centuries various things have worked well and harvest in the area were of the bull rush reeds then willows.  Complicated system of dikes, channels, canals were developed each changing the landscape and preserving a little bit.  Then in 1995 and 1996 there were floods which required more extensive work and large dams and holding areas were developed.  But people have realized with climate change the floods from the river will only increase and sea level is rising.  For a country below sea level that is not good, so a change in attitude is coming about.  They seem to realize you cannot just build the dikes higher and in the future they are going to give the river more room, not less, which means some farm country is going away.  

The park I believe translates to beaver national park and they have introduced beavers there to help with habitat, and apparently they are helping, but as noted time will tell.  It was a wondrous museum although mostly in Dutch, but pictures, artifacts, and diorama most helpful to our understanding.  And the mound of dirt did not look big from the outside but from the inside seemed huge.  

Then on taking a total of 4 ferries (which the GPS hated) one a bicycle, pedestrian only ferry across the Rhein.  Again we were wandering about the countryside going through the towns of Dordrecht and Papendrecht before approaching Rotterdam which the building are beginning to be seen some 16 kilometers to go.  (Did I mention there are no mountains here to block the view and it is flat). A most delightful ride winding our way about various canals.  

Then we find ourselves riding between two canals with old windmills all about.  The famous windmills.   

 

the famous windmlls built in 1740
 
 
We ride for several kilometers the crowds getting thicker as we approach the other end.  Turns out this is a tourist area and it is Sunday afternoon and we heard Spanish, Japanese, German, Dutch and English languages.  From our end of entry it was free but from the other end there was a charge walk amongst the 20 or thirty windmills.  Awesome. They use the windmills to pump water to and from various canals and water systems.

Then another ferry ride and into Rotterdam.   
Be careful as pedestrian sidewalks, bike paths, trams, cars and all with separate signals.    

   
What a concept bikes have right of way.  Roundabouts with bike lanes.  But be careful bikes can move a speed and you must watch when crossing or stepping into a bike lane.  

But directed ourselves into town center which seemed to be the railroad station hoping to find a sign which said end of trail.  Instead we found some folks from Perth, Australia (who speak excellent English although Australian English) who took our picture at the end of the trail.   

 
Contrast to 

 
It has been quite a journey.

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