The first surprise was this delicious concoction.
Randy plays with his shrimp
Saturday evening (June 12th) we went to church with the Swarts.
Joke and Gerry sang in the choir, and the choir sang a
special English piece, Rejoice in the Lord Always, for us.
Heather was the server. Gerry's brother Wim was there in the
same pew. We enjoyed hearing the familiar service in the
Dutch language. Among other things they asked blessings on
the whole Swart family. The church has a Web page, and you
can hear the service on the churchradio.
The next evening we sat in on a practice of Randy's choir,
"Arsis." They sang the James Taylor song "You've got a
friend" especially for us!
Here is a film clip of them doing the James Taylor song.
Back at home, Heather and Randy demonstrate proper
Hup Holland attitudes supporting the Dutch team.
Rob is a real planner! He was very helpful with
our trip planning.
Sunday afternoon the Swart clan gathered, including
seven of Gerry's brothers and sisters. From right to left,
in age order: Corry, Wim, Riet, Gerry, Joop, Kees, Gijs, Lies.
(Missing were Machiel and Hans)
Gerry and Joke toast with schipperbitter.
And we enjoyed a very special family afternoon.
Here is the whole Swart Family.
The food was great, made possible by the cooks: Marian, Joke and Heather.
Gijs presented us with a wonderful momento of our Shantykoor visit.
It was a special certificate commemorating our visit.
Rob's sister Astrid Copier brought the youngest generation,
Sanne, a real cutie.
And inside, Astrid's son Wessel was engrossed in a video game.
Heather entertained us with her flute.
The family enjoyed getting together.
Rob showed them a slide show of our photos.
As the party got going, there was more Hup Holland!
And Gijs, the original party animal, began warming up.
After a few Schipperbitters Gijs even bussed his brother in law Nico.
We were really impressed that everyone went out of their way
to speak English with us, and regretted that we didn't know
any Dutch. As the party ended there were many warm farewells.
Marian with a gift for us -- a wonderful Dutch invention
to clean out the bottom of the jar you are emptying.
Rob had just aced a Project Management course.
After a wonderful and very special family visit that
gave us a unique perspective on the Netherlands and its
people, we headed out on the road again.
The family Swart farewell
Off we go
Our third week we took another train north to Assen,
and rode our bicycle south through some very nice towns
and countryside. Here is a hunebed (dolmen), an ancient mound.
This one is in Borger, and is the largest in the Netherlands.
We used this delightful woods trail near Assen.
We rode through the Dwingeloo national park, a veld area.
No cell phones. Dwingeloo has a radio telescope.
We stayed in Giethorn, the Venice of the Netherlands.
In Giethorn we watched the Dutch football team tie
the favored German team at a sports bar where everyone
celebrated. Then we traveled part of the way along the
former Zeiderzee (now the Ijsselmeer), visiting towns
that had been seaports before the reclamation of Flevoland.
Here were some colorful canoes.
There were thatched roof houses everywhere.
Here is roof thatch growing, with drying bundles of it behind.
In Kampen we paused for a photo.
At Kampen we crossed over to Flevoland to ride part
of a route that had been used by the International
Tandem Rally two years earlier, a really nice woods
Then we crossed again at Elburg, a picturesque old city.
Duck topiary in Elburg
We came across a bench beside a country road, and
discovered that it had been placed there so you could
watch a stork's nest. So we did.
We came through Harderwijk, enjoying the town without
a festival going on. Below the town is a park for
windsurfers. The wind was up and the surfers were
zooming at amazing speeds.
And then on to the picturesque town of Huizen.
Eventually we rode back to Utrecht. On our way into the
city we stopped for a snack at a nice park in front of
some homes. To our great surprise Diny and Kees emerged
from one of them. They had looked out their window and
seen us arrive on our distinctive bicycle. What a coincidence!
We had a farewell dinner with the Swarts at their other
favorite De Meern establishment, Restaurant Rhenomare.
Marian and Rob had their wedding reception there many
years ago. The proud owners are Hans and Marian van Vliet.
The Randys ate their shrimp the classic Dutch way.
Then we repacked our bike.
The box fit in Rob's Dutch VW Passat just perfectly.
Rob had done some careful measuring.
We flew back to Arlington the next day. Many Swarts
came to see us off in the early morning, including
Randy, who had been out late the night before and
would have preferred to sleep in. L to R that's Rob
in the orange soccer team shirt (#12, of course),
Randy in the orange soccer team tie, Heather, Barbara,
Joke, sleepy Randy and Gerry.
They came with us to the airport in two cars to say goodbye.
So we said farewell after the most memorable trip possible.
Here are the two Randys over the years: one has
been growing up and the other has been losing his hair.
Photos by Rob, Gerry, Corinne, neighbor Lex Hartgring and us.
We were blessed with cool but not too chilly weather and only a little rain except for one lousy morning at the rally. We rode a grand total of 600 miles in the three weeks, so we did not cover much ground even though we rode almost every day. We had no bike problems. People were nice to us everywhere despite the recent revelations of US prisoner mistreatment and their generally low opinion of President Bush. Dutch is a hard language for us, but most people spoke enough English to help us with directions, and they were always helpful. In Goes a rider went out of his way to show us a tricky route out of town. We usually called ahead with the cell phone Rob lent us for a B&B or hotel, since the B&B's were often full. Holland is expensive now for Americans, but we felt our money was well spent.
The Netherlands is paradise for bicycles. Nowhere else that we have ridden is the bike as well integrated into the transportation system. They have more bikes than people, and you find astoundingly well-engineered facilities everywhere, with paved trails along all major routes and sometimes in rural areas just out in open fields, with underpasses or overpasses for roads and railroads, bike destination signs, amazing stuff for Americans. In the cities there are strict rules for where everybody goes at intersections and who has the right of way, including the famous bicycle traffic lights that give you your own time during the light cycle to cross. Cars treat you with respect and don't ever take your right of way. Returning here after three weeks of that was a real shock.
We used the maps from the ANWB (Dutch AAA)Fiets Atlas (Bicycle Atlas) that covers the whole country at 1:75,000. We got it from a bookstore in Amsterdam who accepted our email order with our Visa number. Stripped of covers it still weighed nearly two pounds. The maps were reasonably accurate but very tricky to read, in part because they have no landmarks on them so they don't look much like reality. We did a lot of stopping to verify position, frequently getting lost when we did not. We really liked the signed LF routes, pleasant routes that skirt town centers and minimize traffic. When you need to get from point A to point B we found that riding a paved 14 foot trail beside a main road is still not really bad.
We used a standard bicycle box from the airline we booked with (Northwest, although the flight was operated by KLM). It cost us $20. We picked it up early and fitted the inside with a layer of PolarGuard .75 inch polystyrene insulation. It has a plastic film on both sides that keeps it from breaking up into jillions of white dots. We used two 4 x 8 foot sheets. We put two layers at the ends and multiple layers on the bottom and over the wheel axles. We stripped off the cranks, pedals, timing chain, wheels, fork, captain's saddle/stoker bars, and racks. The frame went in first with a spare axle as a spreader between the rear dropouts, followed by the wheels, racks, and fork, all tied to the frame with toe straps. The rest went in plastic bags and into an old suitcase. We taped the box carefully. The box was opened for inspection at Dulles by slitting open the top, but not on the return. Nobody mentioned tandem--it was just "my bicycle." KLM delivered the box both ways in excellent condition, with no damage to the box, much less the bike.
One pleasant find in Holland was inexpensive wines, including our namesake Swartland, a South African winery. We found a few bottles once in the US, but there are more varieties available in the Netherlands, and you find it easily in the local grocery store.
You can see our photos from a tour in 2000 in the Dordogne region of France. That one was also a great trip. We have taken our tandem to Burgundy (2002), and our old tandem to China (1984), Ireland (1979) and Bermuda. With the exception of Bermuda they were all three week trips.
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