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written Monday 14 June 2004


Legs not too bad from yesterday's German-border ride. So this morning back to Tilburg station, for the next leg eastward across the Netherlands' south border with Belgium. Best to consider this the second of two Brabant rides, the first one being just three days ago, on Friday (hee hee, yes it's Monday, I'm playing hooky again).

Today's bike maps: small one HERE to fit on your screen, large one HERE (760KB) for detail, in case you want to follow along. (As usual, red highlight on today's ride, green highlight on previous rides.

I pick up the eastward trek at the border, where I left off Friday--at bicycle path marker 24700--just a few meters inside the Netherlands.

And sure enough, in the greenery just off the bicycle path is this border marker, placed by the Dutch. Just as intersection direction signs and bicycle path markers and traffic lights are individually and uniquely numbered, so too are border markers. Number 211 doesn't mean anything to me, but no doubt it's stored in a Dutch database somewhere. The marker is sensibly painted white to stand out in greenery.

Not even an hour into the ride, it's too hot and I'm changing into shorts. Between two stacks of wood along the bicycle path provides the perfect cover. I can see other cyclists coming long before they can see me.


Next, a turn south to trace out another of the dips of Dutch territory into (otherwise) Belgium. A fair number of time-wasting, leg-muscle-wasting backtracks as I discover more errors in ANWB map #36. Groan. But during the forest rides, it doesn't really matter--so long as I make it to Weert station sometime this evening, the forests are what I came here for today.

Forests like Aalstheide (a forest despite its name), the confusingly named Landgoed de Utrecht, and the unexpectedly beautiful Reuzels Bos (along the Bergeykse Dijk just inside Belgium; pictured just above).

The woods give way to open fields at Boscheind (logically enough). The sun is intense in this flat, open land, and with the wind at my back, I sail right past my turn and double back (again), at Luyksgestel (public safety message for the non-Dutch: do not try to pronounce this). I rest and have lunch at a park bench in the shade, at bicycle intersection #25255, just a few meters from the border...

...and from the inevitable border marker. The marker has the same shape as the one pictured above, but it's painted a bit differently. The markers I've seen are dated 1840 to 1870. I can hear the Americans--"it looks too good, can it really be that old?" Yes it can, for two reasons. First, it's consistent with the surveying that must have happened following Belgium's secession from the Netherlands in the 1830s. Second...150 years old is not "old" here. When you build something well and then take care of it--and the Dutch are really good at both--your creations have a chance of lasting. (A lesson Florida could use.)

This is not a particularly long ride, and the last few hours have very little noteworthy to comment on or to photograph. Straight roads, cows, truck-repair sheds. Or maybe I'm just getting tired. I trudge my way through the very tedious chain of villages that must have gotten last choice on names: Berg, Budel, Midbuul, Klein-Schoot, Buden-Schoot, Budel-Dorplein. Yawn. Snore. And turn northeastward to Weert, best known in the Netherlands for its millions of manhole and drain covers bearing "WEERT". An industrial town, and along the Zuid Willemsvaart canal it looks the part. THEN: turning in toward town, a boulevard of striking beauty, unexpected by the name of Kazerne Laan. The four rows of trees the largest I can ever remember along a road. Helaas, by this hour it was too dark to photograph, but I promise you I will try again...

For, as you can see from the bike map, we are down to just two gaps in our circumnavigation: from Weert to Maastricht (or the reverse), and the fearsome monster ride from Vlissingen around the Belgian border to Bergen op Zoom. So I will be back to Weert. I will capture Kazerne Laan.

Weert station unremarkable. The train ride mercifully uneventful, except for one scramble for the camera, just before Utrecht...


posted by eric at 22.14 CET


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