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.
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.
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!
It wasn’t long before we arrived in Utrecht where we rolled the bikes off the train, and headed for the ticket office there.
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.
At 11:37 we rolled the bikes off the train at Rotterdam Central 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.
We were very luck and spotted the rare and elusive Rotterdam Monkey.
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.
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.
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.
As we approached the Hook of Holland, we came up onto the dykes and rode past large floodgates and water control facilities.
As we come into the Hook of Holland, we pass more sheep and some lighthouses.
We ride and ride and ride some more and finally catch a glimpse of the North Sea!
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!).
Around and over some dunes and we see the North Sea and the beach!!!!!!!!!
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.
After checking in and clowning around in our room, we walked to an Italian restaurant down the street for dinner.
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.
Jette ……. those calloused hands are something to be proud of. They represent courage, perseverance, success and accomplishment.
The first chapter of your adventure is a Grand Success. You should be very, very, very proud of what you have done. I know that I am REALLY PROUD OF YOU. Sometimes it was hard, sometimes you probably wanted to quit, but you never gave up. I am sooooo proud of you.