BAC Bike and Barge - Netherlands 2014
April 20 - First Day Of Riding In The Netherlands - Amsterdam To Utrecht
We started our cruise this morning during breakfast. We left Amsterdam and cruised for an hour or so. When we stopped, we got off of our barge and were fitted to our bicycles. Ann had an e-bike, an electric assisted bike. It was very heavy but practical. It was a bit clumsy to start and stop, but the assist feature made pedaling a lot easier. My bicycle was not as heavy as hers, but it had a triple in front and an 8-speed cluster in back. I probably never got out of the middle chain ring during our tour.
There were 22 of us following a ride leader who is part of the bike and barge tour company. There were no maps or route sheets which made following the leader mandatory. Because the riding abilities of the people in the group range from expert to beginner, the pace was dictated by the slowest rider.
After our bike fit we said good bye to our boat and pedaled away form the pier. It was a slow start with 22 people trying to get accustomed to their bicycles. Ann had an hard time with her electric assisted bike because it was so heavy. Starting and stopping were delicate balancing acts.
We quickly fell into a pattern. Sietse was our guide. Without him it would be impossible to follow all of the bicycle paths. Whenever we reached a turn, he would holler "corner" and the person behind him would stop and make sure the the rest of the group would make the turn. Steven Kiel, one of our group, volunteered to be our sweep. When he reached the corner person, we knew everyone was accounted for.
Sietse was a teacher in his past life and he was very good at explaining where we were and what we were looking at. What we were mostly looking at were canals, dairy farms, wild flowers, water birds, wind mills, country houses, small villages, etc. Because he was telling us about the local flora, fauna and culture, we made lots of stops. This was frustrating to me until I realized that this was why we were here. There was no need to see how fast I could cover the daily mileage.
Our first major stop was at a dairy farm where we had a tour. We saw very young calves, milking apparatuses, cheese making equipment (this farm's major business) and lots of cheese in storage. We were served lunch which was bread and generous samplings of about a dozen types of cheese, all produced by this farm.
Even though we had no route sheets or maps, Sietse knew where we were going. We were soon back on our supposed route being good ducklings following our father duck. There were lots of other cyclists on the trail being Sunday and Easter Sunday. Most of them were typical Netherlands cyclists dressed in regular clothes, no helmets and riding bikes with upright handlebars and few gears. Lots of families were riding together and some had dogs in their baskets. We saw people of all ages ranging from very young to those older than us. Some bicycles were equipped with seats or trailers for toddlers.
The weather was very nice - lots of sunlight and temperatures in the 60's. The dreaded Netherlands winds were mild.
After making lots of stops for mechanicals and sight seeing, we eventually got back to our boat in late afternoon just in time to clean up before dinner. Our port tonight was Utrecht.
This was today's route:
Henk Karelse is the boat's captain and co-owner. Jantien Wondergem is the other co-owner and is the boat's manager and cook. She fixed our dinner along with Iveta, a young crew member from Slovakia. Our other crew member is Denisa, also from Slovakia. Denisa is our bar tender and server. Dinner was three courses - soup, entree and dessert. We had fish tonight.
After dinner Sietse reviewed today's ride and tomorrow's route. To do so, he drew them on a flip chart - we are low-tech. Then it was off to our room and bed time.