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.
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.
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.
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.
Some photos that just don’t capture it:
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.
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.
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.
At times we could see the green fields and dykes on the edge of the forest.
In the village of Heelsum we stopped for lunch at Mamajona cafe.
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.
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.
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.
We left the quiet streets and turned onto a smooth, wide bike path that skirted the edge of the forest and the 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.
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.
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.