The Best Til Last

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written Tuesday 8 June 2004

The Best Til Last

The plan is to take up in Susteren, where the weather frightened me off that blustery afternoon a week ago. Ride the northbound wind, uh, North as far as I can get. Probably Vierlingsbeek, maybe Boxmeer if weather holds.

The bike ride along the eastern edge of Limburg brought some nice pictures. But the day's best--so to speak--was last. The ferry ride to the train station, and the near-disastrous train ride home.

First, the day's bike maps: really big map HERE, screen-size map HERE. Today's ride in red, previous rides in green, you know the drill.


The newspaper on the train floor is telling. Dinsdag is Tuesday, today. Good. The headline: Train Tickets More Expensive. OK, it is Big News that the tarifs are going up...TWO PERCENT!!! But more important to me is the box "Het Weer", the weather. "Erg warm" is terribly hot. Uh oh. Z-3 means the wind out of the south (good!) at Beaufort Scale 3.
 

OK, this is a sailing nation, and even far from big water, Dutch winds are forecast in terms of their effects on water. Beaufort scale 3 is "ripples on the surface", so something like 10-15 km/hour. A respectable help on the bike, but I'll need water on the way to beat the heat. In the train WC, I change into shorts.

Out of Susteren and by the farms, the heat was worse than I hoped, well above the 28C forecast. In tiny Boukoul I chance on a shady bridge. I dangle my feet over the tiny creek flowing below.


It is pleasant. To cool off, I take my time with lunch and finish the last of the 2 liters of water I brought--only 35 km into a hoped-for 110-km ride.
 

I made a game of taking photographs without moving my butt on the bricks, just snapping whatever I can see from right there, without falling into the creek.


 
 


 
 


 
 

A nice game. And I didn't fall in, though that might have cooled me off.

I launched north again, past a series of forgettable towns and roads under construction. Just southeast of Venlo I discovered I was in danger of getting lost...or of wandering into Germany. I discovered I was getting dizzy from the heat and from dehydration. I had a lot of company. Most of that company were truck drivers. Now I know where all the truck drivers in the Netherlands are--Venlo. But where there are trucks, there are truck stops, and I bought water and iced tea and some sticky fruit-flavored thing I would have avoided with all my wits about me. I drink a liter of tea, and then continue north.

North through the Groote Heide, the Schandelose Heide (which is a forest despite its name), the Lommerheide, the Leeremarksche Heide, and finally onto...Heideweg. Imagine that. Boring roads past flat farms just about all the way northwest to the pompously named Ceresweg, and left to Nieuwe Bergen to Bergen to the ferry. Ah yes, the ferry.

The last (second) car had just clattered onto the ferry, and I coasted fast down the hill...and just as I got to the ramp, the ferry engine roared up. I braked and backed off. The engine stopped and reversed, and the captain waved me on. This was weird, then I realized--this is how the locals normally do it. I messed up the rhythm. You're supposed to glide on just as the boat pulls away from shore. And sure enough, as the ramp scraped up on the opposite road the cars were already rolling off. So did I. The captain smiled. The waiting cars start onto the ferry, and the diesels roar up just as the last one rolls on. Don't blink.


There--now if you ever find yourself at the Bergen-Vierlingsbeek ferry, you know (1) how to make the captain happy and (2) how not to end up undoing your seat belt at the bottom of the Maas.
 


I snapped this just as the ferry made the other side. The blue things on the wall mark high-water marks from Maas floods. From bottom to top: 6 January 2003, 17 January 1920, 25 December 1993 (Merry Christmas!), 1 Feburary 1995. Something says "melting snow" to me. The Germans are thoughtful like that.
 

Vierlingsbeek station had no vending machines. My first connection, Nijmegen station, did have vending machines but all are sold out, not much to my surprise. I load my bike and lose track of time while waiting. The doors close and open again. Arnhem. I am really disoriented. I think about just getting out just to get water even if the train leaves without me. As it turns out, maybe I should have.

Suddenly I look up to see a fellow in a motorized wheelchair in the middle of the train car's entryway. I shake my head--how could they have loaded him in, not 3 steps away from me, without my noticing? I squeeze past him to see the station's clock--3 minutes before departure. I lean out and look up, over the doorway--this is a wheelchair car--on this train the next entryway is for bicycles. Gad. WHY did the NS train people just dump him here, and not tell me to go next door to make room? It's NOT like NS people are bashful.

Now I'm really awake. This is show time. Think fast. With my spread hands I measure my handlebars and then measure the passageway between the train cars. No fit. I start whipping my lock cable out from the chair and tell the gentleman that I'm gladly moving out, to the next car. I roll the bike toward the door and tell him "No, please don't move, I have it." He rolls back anyway. The Dutch comes easily and I tell him I'm out now, it's OK, but he keeps rolling back. I shout "STOP" and he tumbles, chair and all, backwards down the five or six stairs. I wave out the door "ATTENTIE STOP DE TREIN". They do. The guy is shaken but tells me he's basically OK. A huge black guy appears at the bottom and pushes, and two NS guys and I lift from the top, and after some pulled muscles we get the him and the wheelchair up and level. He checks the chair--it works fine. The NS people make way, and I go out one door and up the next, the doors close, and we all leave--4 minutes late. The NS people are very nice to me in the next car. It is swelteringly hot, and I stand by the glass doors where some air is flowing, trying to trick air up my shirt to cool off even a little. I get out two stops later, in Utrecht, and the train doors close on time. But my connection is tight, and I never see the wheelchair again--for all I know he got out before me in Ede-Wageningen.

I make the connection to the stoptrein to my home station, Naarden-Bussum. Departure time passes. Five minutes past, we're still sitting on Spoor 3. The train is sitting in direct sun, even at 9 pm, and there is no air at all. They announce that the driver for our train didn't show up for work, we may as well go to Spoor 1 for the next train. I lug the bike over and up. We wait. Departure time passes. They announce that this train has electrical problems, go back to Spoor 3, the driver showed up. Sober, I hope. My back is getting really sore now. It's late. I've chugged 2 liters of liquid since I showed up in Utrecht, still I have no urge to urinate--meaning I must have been severely dehydrated.

What a day. But a Tuesday, you know--hey, I could have been stuck at work.

posted by eric at 23.15 CET

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