With our “Rhine from source to sea” trip officially complete, we still needed to get back to Amsterdam, so this morning we got up, had a big breakfast at the hotel, packed our bikes again and hit the road. The plan was to ride to The Hague (Den Haag) and catch a train to Amsterdam.
Ready to roll
We took a route that followed a long bike trail all along the coast, hugging the beach and this turned out to be another really nice ride and one of our favorite days on the bikes, simply because the landscape was once again surprisingly beautiful. The past few days in the Netherlands have been such a pleasant surprise and really a highlight of the trip.
Yesterday as we rolled into Hook of Holland, we saw a playground that looked like a good one (we are in the Netherlands after all!) and I promised Jette we could stop there today. So, on our way out of town we took a very slight detour and stopped at the playground, which was tucked into the landscape between the edge of town and the beach.
Walking down to the playground
It is frustrating as our photos don’t even begin to capture the subtle beauty of the landscape. In addition the the typical playground equipment, this park also features a long zip line tucked down in a small, green crevasse. The whole park is full of lush grasses and small wildflowers that dance in the wind and almost glow in the sunlight filtering through the clouds. To the eye, there is a most beautiful and subtle variation of color, texture, and motion that is totally lost to the camera, at least in our quick snapshots.
Diverse and beautiful landscape
View towards the ocean
A little black cat hunting in meadow
Anyway, we parked our bikes and walked down the little, winding footpath to the zip line and had some fun on the zip line and the other playground equipment.
Will the big kid break it?
We hopped back on our bikes and rode along the same path that we took yesterday to get to the beach. As we reached the dunes along the edge of the beach, we turned right onto a path that runs along the beach, and goes all the way up the coast to Den Haag.
Back towards the beach
Our route was North and little bit East which meant that the strong southwesterly wind coming off the North Sea was an almost perfect tailwind for much of the day. That made pedaling easy and was certainly a welcome treat after battling the headwinds yesterday!
As we rode North, we sometimes the path ran right along the top of the dunes at the edge of the beach. At other times we curved inland, up and down along dykes, with the dunes and the beach to our left.
Hurry up dad!
Pretty colors in the landscape
In a couple of places we passed huge complexes of greenhouses.
Sunlight reflecting on the roofs of the grreenhouses
Along the dykes, everything was green and spotted with windflowers. Among the dunes, the grasses were taller and more heavily textured, and the colors of the plants shifted to a softer green and picked up the creamy yellows of the sandy dunes and the beach.
Amazing light, colors and textures
Dancing in the wind
At De Zandmotor we took a break and walked down to the beach. De Zandmotor is a massive coastal protection project where they have dredged sand from the sea bottom and deposited it at the shore. They have constructed a giant penninusula that is 1km by 2km and over time, the winds and tides of nature will shift the sand along the coast, incorporating it into the existing dunes and beach, making them bigger and providing more protection. They call it “building with nature.”
Reading about the Sand Motor
Views at high and low tide
Walking down to the beach
The dredged sand is full of tiny shells
Handstands and a double horizon
Mila at the water’s edge
At the water’s edge
We hopped back on our bikes and before long we were in Den Haag where we headed to the central station and bought tickets for Amsterdam. Fifteen minutes later we were on the train with our bikes, and an hour or so after that we rolling our bikes off the train at Amsterdam Centraal. We hopped on our bikes and once again rode to Camping Zeeburg and pitched our tent.
At the Den Haag train station
Back in Amsterdam and looking down at Camping Zeeburg
Up goes the tent – for the last time on this trip!
Today we took a couple trains and we rode 46.44 km.
This is it! This is the day we made it to the North Sea, the mouth of the Rhine.
We call this “the day that would not end.” It was a great day, and a very, very long day.
This will probably be a long post!
We awoke to a wet and misty morning. Before I loaded my bike, I laid it on its side, removed the new bellcrank and squirted about a half bottle of Finish Line Wet Cross Country chain lube (which is really a good quality, high-viscosity synthetic oil) into the hub. I don’t think I mentioned it in yesterday’s post, but with the hills around Arnhem and the weight I’m carrying I’ve pushed the hub to its very limits yet again. I got the brakes so hot on one of the downhills that I burned out the remaining grease. There is a good likelihood that there were/are some metal fragments floating around in there too, as not only were the brakes “screaming” when engaged, the hub was making squealing noises when I pedaled and even when I coasted. This is how it sounded as we rolled into Rhenen last night:
Before we checked into the hotel, we stopped at a local bike shop to see if they had any of the special Shimano grease for the Nexus hubs. They did not. I intended to take a couple tubes with me from the beginning, but I have yet to find a bike shop in the Netherlands, Germany or Switzerland that would sell me a tube! Some of the bike shops had their own stash for their shops, but they wouldn’t sell me one. When I had the rear tire replaced in Koblenz I bought the bottle of the Finish Line lube as a substitute, “just in case.” I’m glad I did, because it worked. This morning before we started off, I put about half the bottle in the hub with the hope that it would flush out any metal fragments and also seep through to the brake shoes and give them some much needed lubrication. It did. As we rode into town to find breakfast, the hub was quiet and smooth as were the brakes. Nice!
We stopped for breakfast at a cute bakery and enjoyed some hot tea and pastries. I had a delicious apple pastry. It was so good we got two more for the road.
Our breakfast stop
As we were eating, we looked at the weather forecast and the calendar. The forecast was for rain today and the next couple days. Mila and Jette were not keen on riding in the cold rain, but there was no way we could make it to the North Sea if we took any more rain days. We were simply too slow for the days we have remaining. After some debate, we agreed reluctantly that if we were to hit the finish line by bike we would have to take another train. The plan was to train to Rotterdam and ride the final 40k or so to the Hook of Holland and the coast of North Sea. So, we packed our delicious apple pastries, hopped on our bikes and started riding toward the train station. The mist of the morning had turned to rain. A slow, cold, steady rain.
At the Rhenen train station
There was no ticket agent and the station, only a ticket machine. To get to Rotterdam from Rhenen the trains went through Utrecht. There was a train at the station, and we couldn’t figure out how to buy passes on the bicycles on the ticket machine, so we just bought three tickets for Rotterdam and jumped on the train. Once again it was a local train that allowed us to roll the bikes on fully loaded. So easy and so nice!
On the train the Utrecht
The wet green landscape out the window
Bike parking at one of the little stations along the way
It wasn’t long before we arrived in Utrecht where we rolled the bikes off the train, and headed for the ticket office there.
Elevator in Utrecht station
I told the ticket agent that I’d purchased three tickets to Rotterdam using the machine in Rhenen but that I couldn’t figure out how to purchase the bike passes. She was super-friendly and asked to see our tickets (actually “OV chipcards”). I gave them to her and she immediately saw that we had purchased an adult fare for Jette. She looked Jette in the eye and asked her how old she was.
Jette said, “Ten.”
“Oh,” the ticket agent said with a smile. “Then you have overpaid. I owe you some money.”
She proceeded to count out 14 Euros and give them to Jette, who smiled and said, “Thank you!”
This lady made our day. A smile and positive attitude makes such a difference and this nice lady went above and beyond.
Tickets and bike passes in hand, we rolled our bikes to platform 8 and a few minutes later, onto the train to Rotterdam.
Bikes crammed into the train
At 11:37 we rolled the bikes off the train at Rotterdam Central Station.
On the platform in Rotterdam
Leaving the Rotterdam Station
In Rotterdam we had sunny skies! Yay!
We rode through Rotterdam, winding through the city.
When we saw this cute frites stand, of course we had to stop and sample their wares.
We rode on until we reconnected with the river. When we did, we stopped at an old marina to snap a few photos.
Quick stop at an old marina
We were very luck and spotted the rare and elusive Rotterdam Monkey.
Route through Rotterdam
From here on, the route runs along the North shore of the river, all the way to the Hook of Holland and the North Sea.
An old windmill in the middle of the city
Somewhere in the outer ‘burbs of Rotterdam, Mila thought her rear tire was losing air. We stopped, I pulled the hand pump out of the trailer and pumped it up. This was the first time we had topped-up her tires on the whole trip!
In the outer burbs, we passed a giant shopping center and really started to feel the wind from the North Sea, which would turn out to be a brutal headwind for the rest of the day.
We rode through a couple cute little towns, some very industrial areas, and then the route curved down, right along the shore of the Rhine.
We were only about 15 km from the Hook of Holland but this is where the day would begin to feel like it would never, ever end. We rode and we rode and we rode and sometimes it seemed like we were getting farther and farther from the North Sea. Was that powerful wind blowing us backwards?! It sure felt like it!
On the left side we had the Rhine and on the right the industrial areas gave way to a long, beautiful park, green with grassy lawns and forested areas.
The path and the park
There were giant windmills, huge cranes, big smokestacks and of course big ships – all the things you would expect to see along the biggest port in Europe. For 40 years, Rotterdam was the busiest port in the world. In recent years Singapore and Shanghai and other ports have surpassed it in shipping volume.
We came upon a section of the river where there was a massive sand bar that formed a sort of “beach.” With the sun to the West, we could see trails of footprints snaking out across the sand. It was enticing and we stopped for a few minutes so Jette could go down and explore.
The sandy beach
Jette climbing back up
On we go
Against the wind
As we approached the Hook of Holland, we came up onto the dykes and rode past large floodgates and water control facilities.
Approaching Hook of Holland
Water control facility
As we come into the Hook of Holland, we pass more sheep and some lighthouses.
Into the Hook of Holland
We ride and ride and ride some more and finally catch a glimpse of the North Sea!
1 km from the beach!
We ride for another ten minutes and suddenly we are surrounded by beautiful sand dunes and a winding network of bike paths (this is the Netherlands after all!).
Sand dunes and bike paths
Around and over some dunes and we see the North Sea and the beach!!!!!!!!!
Dipping our toes in the North Sea
We did it!
Ha! I did it!
The North Sea at the Rhine Delta
Wet and happy, glowing with accomplishment, we rode back into Hook of Holland and found a hotel. The first B&B we tried was booked, but we found a room at the Grand Hotel.
Grand Hotel Hook of Holland
Source to Sea!
They did it
After checking in and clowning around in our room, we walked to an Italian restaurant down the street for dinner.
A well-earned dinner
Jette’s calloused hands
We did it!
What a river. What a ride. What an experience… There is so much that we have seen, so much that we have learned, and so much that we have enjoyed on this journey.
Mila and Jette in the North Sea
From source to sea. We did it!
Full update and catch-up posts coming soon…