Day 22: Arnhem to Rhenen

We rode 49.76 km from Arnhem to Rhenen.

I woke up early. Mila and Jette were still asleep, so I walked to the little grocery store across the street to get some things for our breakfast. The streets were still wet, but the rain had stopped. It was cool, maybe 11 or 12 degrees celsius (low 50’s) and the morning commuters were riding by on their bicycles in coats and scarves. I was in shorts and sandals, my typical riding outfit, and I got quite a few doubletakes and stares. Jette and I are both fairly cold tolerant and don’t like to get bundled up, especially when we are being active. On this trip we’ve marveled at how, to us, many Europeans appear to be overdressed. I suppose they dress for the morning temperatures or the worst case scenario, but when the day goes from 55 to 73 and they are still walking around in down jackets and scarves it is our turn to stop and stare!

Mila and Jette were awake when I got back and we had a quick breakfast of bread and fruit. We packed our bags and retrieved our bikes from the hotel basement. We were ready to roll.

Ready to leave Arnhem

Ready to leave Arnhem

I checked the map on my phone. There would be no trouble getting back on route this morning, as the hotel (the little yellow star on this map) was right on it. Off we went to the West.

We rode past the main train station, made a bit of a jog and were faced with a pretty big hill. That was a surprise! We didn’t think they had these in The Netherlands! We were about to be even more pleasantly surprised, as today’s ride turned out to be one of the prettiest and most surprising of the whole trip.

We were parallel the train tracks, and as we rode up, we left the center city and came into a more residential area. The leafy suburbs, if you will. It wasn’t long before we started seeing signs like this one.

Sign for Route LF4b

Sign for Route LF4b

The Netherlands has a national network of cross-country bicycle routes, and we’ll be following the East-West LF 4b route for this part of our trip. Of course we’re still following the EuroVelo 15 Route for the full length of the Rhine, but as one crosses from country to country the EV 15 “uses” various local, regional, or national routes, so the signs and route names change along the way. One universal is that the route is well marked, and I think it could be done quite easily without even the need for a map for navigation. It has been nice to have maps, but we’ve really needed them very little.

From the quiet streets of the pretty residential area, the route turns onto a bike path through some really beautiful forested parks.

Forested parks near Arnhem

Forested parks near Arnhem

It was a surprise and a bit surreal. It was so unexpected and so pretty that I almost got goosebumps. It was an experience that would be repeated a number of times today.

We wound around, up and down through the forests occasionally coming out into of getting little peeks of bright green meadows and fields, sometimes with sheep or cows or horses grazing. The photos don’t capture it, and I can’t put it into words, but it was a truly magical landscape. And the light. It was as if there was a different sun illuminating this world as the visible sunbeams came streaming through the forest canopy and through the clouds over the impossibly green fields.

Through the forests and by the meadows

Through the forests and by the meadows

Some photos that just don’t capture it:

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At one point we came out of the trees and ran along a huge, luxurious equestrian estate complete with modern buildings with impeccably thatched roofs. There were large, ornate gates to the property and two large signs with the Glock logo. We were totally confused. Glock is the Austrian arms manufacturer that popularized the polymer handgun and is one of the largest handgun producers in the world.

The Glock facilityThe Glock facility

glock

As we passed the gate and rode along beside the estate, we passed a security guard who didn’t look too friendly and perhaps the fanciest stables I’ve ever seen. There were other nice buildings and a number of luxury cars. We were perplexed. What does Glock have to do with horses? Later on I googled it, and found that Glock does indeed have an equestrian operation and this was indeed part of it. It tuns out the company also has in interesting history of embezzlement that includes an attempt on the founder’s life and a general history that reads like pulp fiction (or an old season of Dallas).

As we rode on, the route alternated between forest trails ended and quiet roads through pretty villages or residential areas.

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Stopping to snap photos of thatched roofs

Stopping to snap photos of thatched roofs

Lots of cute little houses with thatched roofs

Lots of cute little houses with thatched roofs

We left the residential area behind and rode through a large forested park or nature preserve on a small road. There were lots of trails and people out walking, many of them with dogs. Somewhere along here we missed a sign and go way off route. We realized our mistake and backtracked. The sign we missed was for a turn at the bottom of a long, fast downhill and it was immediately apparent why we missed it. It was facing the wrong way! Anyway we were back on track with a few extra kilometers on the odometer.

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At times we could see the green fields and dykes on the edge of the forest.

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In the village of Heelsum we stopped for lunch at Mamajona cafe.

Map of Heelsum

Mamajona cafe

Mamajona cafe

Salad

Salad

Sandwiches at Mamajona

Sandwiches at Mamajona

We rode on and as we came to the edge of the village we heard planes passing low overhead. I looked up and there were two old biplanes. There were more planes int he sky ahead and suddenly parachutes too. A little further on the route switched from a street to a path though a large field. Except we could barely see the path – it was crowded with people.

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Clearly we had stumbled upon one of the events associated with the commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem. As if on cue, more planes passed over and streaming out of them came more airborne troops with the old, round military parachutes of WWII.

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We watched the parachutists and then made our way through the crowd. Back on quiet streets we passed through another very pretty residential area on the edge of forests and fields.

Passing through another pretty residential area

Passing through another pretty residential area

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We left the quiet streets and turned onto a smooth, wide bike path that skirted the edge of the forest and the fields.

Coming out into the fields

Coming out into the fields

On the edge of the forest and fields

On the edge of the forest and fields

It wasn’t long before the path moved up to the top of a dyke, with fields on our left and houses on our right.

Up onto the dyke

Up onto the dyke

Mila and the sheep

Mila and the sheep

Past happy, grazing sheep

Past happy, grazing sheep

We were getting tired and the sky was looking ominous. According to Google Maps, there were no good camping options nearby. There appeared to be two hotels in Rhenen, so we decided that would be our stopping point for the day. We rolled into town and found the first hotel. It was closed and empty. Thankfully the second hotel was still in business and had a room available. Before we had even unpacked our bikes, the sky got dark and it started pouring rain.

Hotel bicycle parking

Hotel bicycle parking

Hotel bike room

Bikes safely tucked away, we had a nice bath and dinner then called it a night. It had been a beautiful day with beautiful scenery. The photos really don’t capture the magic and the beauty of the varied landscapes we saw today, the tiny wildflowers hiding in the fields, and the quality of the light. Today was a good day.

1000 km!

Two days ago on the 15th we hit 1,000 km!

We’ve only done about 600 km since the re-start of the bike trip in Lindau, but we’ve now done over 1,000 km on this trip overall. Woohoo!

When we hit 1,000 we were headed out of Koblenz, cold and soaking wet in the industrial outskirts of the city.

1,000 km!

1,000 km!

High fives for 1,000 km!!!

High fives for 1,000 km!!!

It was shortly thereafter that we decided to head back into Koblenz and take the train to Arnhem, The Netherlands. We’re running out of time. We really only have a few days left before we need to be back in Amsterdam to get bikes and gear packed up and shipped, and to pick up new gear for our onward journey. Our visas are expiring and we have a flight out on the 27th, but more on that later.

Also, Mila’s broken arm shifted the trip a month and we’re not well equipped for the wet and cold of Fall which has definitely arrived. Jette’s poncho turned out to be defective and is not waterproof at all. Instead it seems to like to soak up the rain and wick it immediately to the clothes underneath. Do NOT buy the Outdoor Products Women’s Poncho!

It’s morning in Arnhem and we’re about to pack up and hit the road. Our hope is to make it to the mouth of the Rhine in the North Sea at the Hook of Holland before our time here runs out.

We’ve had really slow internet connections everywhere we’ve been, so I’m still playing catch-up on the daily posts. I plan to do them as soon as I can and back date them so the date of the post matches the day it occurred.

Gotta roll! Talk to you later…

 

Day 21: Arnhem rest/rain day

We rode ZERO km today!

Today was a rest and rain day in Arnhem. We woke up and walked through the chilly rain for some breakfast. Mila and Jette did some shopping and I went into the cafe at HEMA to use their WiFi. So far virtually every hotel and WiFi hotspot we’ve found has a PAINFULLY slow internet connection. For example, our hotel had upload speeds of 0.4 Mbps. That’s why we haven’t posted many videos – we haven’t had the bandwidth to upload them (or the time to edit them)!

Good internet connection at HEMA

Good internet connection at HEMA

Anyway, the Dutch discount store HEMA (like a cross between Target and IKEA) has free WiFi and it was about 7 times faster than the hotel’s connection. I spent a few hours there catching up on blog posts and emails and the girls joined me when they were done shopping.

Afterwards, I took all of our dirty clothes and rode across town through the rain to a laundromat I found on Google Maps. It was closed!

Closed!

Closed!

The sign on the window had the 5:00 closing time on Tuesdays crossed out and replaced with noon. Bummer! I checked Google Maps and the closest alternative I could find was South across the river, so away I went in the rain. It was not a coin-operated laundry, but rather the kind of place where you drop off your clothes to be laundered. They were willing to do our two loads while I waited…for 27 Euros. Ouch! At least it was cheaper than the hotel laundry service.

The second laundromat

The second laundromat

Two hours later, I was back at the hotel with laundry done and we wandered out to find some dinner. As I rode over the bridge in the rain, there were a hundred or more soldiers milling about and there was an event crew setting up massive LED screens and lights on the bridges for the evening’s event commemorating the Battle of Arnhem and the fight for the bridge.

Arnhem proper is one of the larger cities in The Netherlands, but it is quite small by U.S. standards with about 150,000 residents. The larger Arnhem-Nijmegen metro area is just over 700,000. Although Arnhem was small, it had a good amount of retail, commerce and bustle. It was a nice combination that made it feel like it was just the right size and not too quiet or sleepy.

Arnhem Map

Arnhem on the map

The next day we would discover that it was surrounded by a beautiful landscape, parks, dykes, forests and farmland…

Day 20: Cologne to Arnhem

Today we took a train and rode 6.26 km.

We awoke to rain and wind. We enjoyed a nice buffet breakfast at our over-priced hotel, packed our bags, left them with the front desk, and headed to the Cologne Cathedral for some sightseeing.

Ready to see some sights

Ready to see some sights

At the cathedral there was a service in progress and Mila and I didn’t take many pictures. It is an amazing work of architecture, but some of its impact was dampened by the fact that our experience at the Strasbourg Cathedral was still so fresh in our minds. Also, because there was a service taking place, we could really only “peek” into the interior.

Jette and Waco at the Koln Cathedral

Jette and Waco pretending to be kites in the wind at the Koln Cathedral

In getting to the cathedral, Jette’s purple poncho was almost instantly soaked through. The cool temperature, wind, and rain made it very clear that long days in the saddle were not feasible for us when it was rainy. So, we stood in a sheltered doorway of the cathedral and discussed our next steps. Last night we talked about taking the train to Dusseldorf or Duisburg, but it was quickly dawning on us that we were really running out of time. We decided to skip the industrial part of Germany and take the train to Arnhem, which was about 150 km from our final destination, the North Sea.  With the daily distances we were averaging, this would give us a good chance of finishing the route by bike. Anything short of that and we risked not being able to finish by bike in the time we had left. Also, since the weather forecast for the next couple days was rain, we figured it was better to make a “rain day” a “train day” and jump on a train now rather than later.

Looking at the train station fom the cathedral

Looking at the train station from the cathedral

So, Jette and I ran through the rain to the train station and bought tickets to Arnhem.

In the train station

In the train station with the cathedral in the backbround

We tickets in hand, we rode back to the hotel, picked up our bags, packed the bikes, and rode back to the train station. It was another day of bikes on trains and doing the “train dance.”

At the Koln Station

At the Koln Station

On the first train of the day

On the first train of the day

Our bikes and another on the train

Our bikes and another on the train

My bike and trailer with wheels removed

My bike and trailer with wheels removed

There were multiple trains and transfers and thankfully in each case we were able to roll the loaded bikes onto the trains instead of having to unload the bike and shuttle bags and bikes separately.

We were on local commuter trains, not regional express trains and we seemed to have hit one of them at the same time that the local high school kids were going home. They pushed onto the train before we could get the bikes on and took up all the space in the designated “bicycle car.” We had to cram ourselves and the bikes into the entry vestibule of the train car, which made it virtually impossible for other people to get in an out. We spent a couple of hours standing crammed in, holding our bikes up in the entry way. Each time the train stopped and the people in the bike area exited the “bike area” of the train others filled in before we could move our bikes. Countless people cursed us for blocking the entry/exit, but ironically, they were the same people who sat in the designated bike area! Culturally, this situation stumped us. Everyone’s lives would have been easier if those knuckleheads would have just let us “park” our bikes properly on the train! We just couldn’t understand it!!!

We made it to Arnhem and with more rain forecast, checked into a hotel near the train station. As it turned out, just like “The Expo” in Cologne there was a big event in town and many of the hotels were booked. Who knew?! Luckily the Best Western adjacent to the train station had one room available…

The Safari Room!

The Safari Room!

Hilarious, I know. We seem to be a magnet for “themed” hotel rooms. We are animal lovers. Go figure.

The event in town was the 71st Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem.  The town was full of soldiers – young, active duty ones, and old originals.

The hotel let us park our bikes in the basement with the employee bikes. Parked, unpacked and cleaned-up we found a nearby cafe for a nice dinner and called it a day.

Meem - the cute cafe

Meem – the cute cafe

Goodnight.