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Day 84 - 89

 Day 84                  08/10/23

The days are just getting better and better. We packed up our bike in the hotel garage as the manager talked with us for a good 20 minutes about our ride. He said he has been trying to get his wife to do something like this for 12 years. I reassured him that he only had 26 more years of convincing?


We rode out to the coast along a path that parallels the ocean. The stunning sand dunes covered in low lying grasses and flowers stretched on for miles and miles. It was one of those perfect temperature mornings, not too hot and not too cold. It was a little overcast but we could see to the south that the sun was breaking out all over the place and we would soon be in it.


We rode to the ferry at the Hook of Holland. There we waited for 45 minutes and talked to a couple of young local guys who were setting out on their first biking tour. Very fun! When the ferry pulled in we expected it to be much larger considering how many people with bikes were in line to go on board.



The ride took us through one of the busiest harbors in Europe. It was phenomenal! The cargo ships were massive and one ship in particular (the Evergreen) passed right by us as it left the harbor. We found out later that it carries about 25,000 cargo containers in one load. Near the end of our ride a big boat passed by creating a huge wake which our ferry had to cross. The ferry rose up and splashed down hard throwing water up onto the bow of the boat where we happened to be sitting. Yes, we got drenched. It was all part of the adventure.



We departed the ferry and continued the ride. The skies had now become clear and sunny. We found ourselves leaving the harbor behind and heading into beautiful coastal farmland. Years ago, the whole area had experienced enormous flooding so the government built vast levies to hold back the sea. The engineering and the amount of work that had to be done is mind boggling.


Our best friend, the grocery store, was a stop we had to make and good thing we did. It turned out that our campground was on someone's dairy farm and there was not a grocery store or restaurant for miles. Yes, it had the distinct smell of cows and manure wafting throughout the campsite as well as a lot of moos, but as the British say, it was brilliant. We showered and headed off to walk along the beach before dinner.


As in life, some days are better than others and this one hit all the marks. It could not have been a better day. It felt good to put the rainy days behind us as we get near the end of our journey.



Keep on rolling

Scott and Sarah

Rode 43 miles




Day 85            08/11/23

We woke up later than normal and took our time getting out of the campground. A local kitty showed up and was an immediate friend playing in all of our stuff. We ate breakfast around a table with a Dutch couple while we talked for a good hour. We have to say again that the Dutch are very friendly.



We picked up riding where we left off yesterday, beautiful weather and a wonderful farmland landscape. It wasn't long before we rode into a village and decided to stop for pancakes. I was tempted by the prospect of salami pancakes but went the more conservative route and had apple. Sarah ordered up some cherry pancakes and of course we both got coffee.


We rode on and were soon confronted with a ten mile long levee that crossed a wicked looking sea on one side and calm water on the other. The wind was kicking up as the windmills were turning with a constant hum. Thankfully it was a crosswind so it was not as strenuous as we had expected. What a marvelous experience and a testament to the ability of man to harness nature for his own use.



It was supposed to be a short day of riding but it held many unexpected adventures and took longer than expected. At one point, we stopped in a nature preserve to capture a video of a huge flock of sea gulls landing on the water. What beauty and awe can arise from what seems to be the ordinary things of life. We stopped at an Aldi grocery store to pick up our daily supplies and then on to the campground in Middleburg, Zeeland, Netherlands.


After we set up camp, showered and ate dinner, I said to Sarah, "Let's head into town." That did not get rave reviews but when I told her it wasn't even 6:00pm she agreed to go. We are so glad we did! The receptionist at the campground had told us that there was a food truck festival going on so we decided to make that our first stop.


As we neared town, we were surprised to hear a familiar sound, country music. It was coming from the festival grounds which was a lush, treed area with  water ways on three sides. The  area was filled with food trucks, music and people of all ages. But the main feature was a beautifully restored windmill.



We stopped in front of the stage where the band was playing and almost forgot where we were for the moment. Then, the band members addressed the audience in Dutch but sang in perfect American country english. For fun, I took a $10 greenback and handed it to the lead singer. He asked me where I was from. The next thing I know, he yells out to the crowd, "These guys are from Colorado, USA, let's all sing them a John Denver song." It was fantastic! The crowd started singing along to John Denver's, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy!"



After the sing along, we toured the working windmill. Climbing four flights of wooden stairs, to a platform that overlooked the whole festival including the band. We headed into the town village where the streets were all laid with brick in a herringbone pattern. Each building was meticulously painted and the whole setting was stunning. Once again another city that was completely destroyed and rebuilt since WWII. It is hard to imagine how they accomplished all that work after the war.



As we were walking home through the community gardens we ran into another Dutch couple walking their daschund. Of course, having been owners of a weenie dog, we had to stop and admire her. After about 40 minutes of great conversation, we managed to say goodbye to "Dot" and her people, and head back to the campground to turn in for the night.


Keep on rolling

Scott and Sarah

Rode 35 miles




Day 86         08/12/23

It poured last night but finally let up around 8:30am. We crawled out of the tent and headed over to the campground coffee shop for a cup of Joe. By the time we finished the sky was beginning to show patches of blue and rays of sun. Thankfully we were able to pack up dry gear and get on the road.


It was ten miles to the ferry which we boarded for a five mile ride. By now the weather was perfectly warm and sunny but the wind was picking up. We disembarked into a strong headwind and pedalled along the beach enjoying the beautiful coastal scenery.


Once we left the coast we headed inland toward Brugges and we entered into Belgium. As we were cycling down a road we could see two cyclists coming up behind us on Ebikes. Suddenly one of them tried to cross the road causing a car to swerve while honking their horn. The woman ditched her bike off the road, but fortunately it looked like she was okay.


We made it to Brugge and we checked in. The Airbnb host, Arbeër, was very friendly and welcomed us in. They had just bought the building and fully remodelled it. He gave us the tour and was obviously excited to show us around. It was his first week in business and we were only the second guests to stay in our room. Our room overlooked one of the roads leading into the city and he told us it could be noisy at night. So we will have to wait and see but in the meantime we are settling in and looking forward to the next couple of days here.



Keep on rolling

Scott and Sarah

Rode 37 miles




Day 87 08/13/23

O what a night! People were out until three in the morning and the noise was incredible. We finally used our earplugs, closed the windows and enjoyed a few hours of sleep. Of course it was Saturday night and people stay out untill the wee hours but it's all part of the journey.


When we finally got going late in the morning we headed out to walk the city streets. What a beautiful, medieval city that captures your imagination at every turn. Lunchtime rolled around and we got a couple of burgers and headed back to our room for an afternoon nap!


As the evening neared we ventured back into town and strolled the shops. We plan to take a train ride into Paris for a couple of days so Sarah bought herself a dress for the occasion. Belgium is of course known for chocolate, beer and waffles. Out of those three, the waffles were smelling so good we decided to have some for dinner. Sarah decided on cherry waffles and I had the BLT waffle. They were gone in 60 seconds!



There was a pipe organ concert that Sarah was interested in attending at 8:00 pm. It was was held at The Church of the Holy Blood, which purportedly houses the blood of Christ in a metal relic tube. Let's not get into the weeds here on the last statement but we showed up for the concert 20 minutes early. We were the only ones there in the 12th century church building which gave us time to look around. At last count 30 people showed up and the organist got things underway.



A very nice looking family of four, with two teenage sons, walked in and took their seats. They were all well dressed and seemed like an upper class family. As the music of Chopin and Bach filled the air I noticed that the boys (16 and 18?) had moved from sitting next to their parents to two rows in front of their parents. I knew it was time to get the video rolling. Just as I panned over one of the brothers heads almost fell off of his shoulders trying to stay awake. I caught it on video and showed it to Sarah a minute later. She lost it which made me lose it as well and we both could not quit giggling. We finally regained our composure and refocused our attention but what a priceless video.


After the concert we walked around until ten in the evening enjoying the night air and the beautiful city. We plan to spend one more day here before we head to Dunkirk.



Keep on rolling

Scott and Sarah




Day 88          08/14/23

Last night was a better night's sleep. Sunday evening did not have the crowds like Saturday night so the noise level was considerably lower outside our bedroom window. Today we decided to take a boat cruise on the canals which was very enjoyable. The weather was perfect and we cruised for about 40 minutes. It reminded me of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland where at any moment a croc would be spotted.



After the cruise we ate some more waffles and walked around town. On a self guided tour we stopping at The Church of Our Lady. It housed some pretty impressive icons and paintings but the architecture of the building is what caught my attention. It is hard to imagine how they built this building using bricks. Millions and millions of bricks. Having laid my fair share of tile and building stone walls I could not fathom how they did such intricate work in such precarious places. The ceiling pattern in the Cathedral alone was unbelievable. Zoom in close on the ceiling below and you will see what I mean.



We ended up heading into a chocolate store to buy some chocolate. What would a trip to Belgium be without some chocolate. But of course I am not a real fan of chocolate. I bought just enough to tell people that I had Belgium chocolate but I also bought a nice white chocolate bar.


We had a great three days in Brugges but we were both commenting after dinner that we may have exceeded our caloric intake over these past few days. We are going to have to break a few bad eating habits when we get home but for the moment it's been fun.



Keep on rolling

Scott and Sarah




Day 89 08/15/23

I could not believe it when Sarah came back to the room and said it was starting to rain. I pulled up the weather report and wouldn't you know it, the experts were saying, "NO RAIN." I guess they don't have windows in the building they work in. It was only a drizzle but it did pick up and for at least and hour we had some nice beautiful rain to start the day. Not to worry though it cleared up and the remainder of the day gave way to blue sky and sunshine.



We rode along a canal from Brugges all the way to Dunkirk. At one point we stopped at a rookery full of birds and walked out to an observation platform to get a better look. We were not sure as to the type of birds they were but they played in a small lake by the hundreds and hundreds and it was a thrill to see them take off and land. Passing back into France we had to stop at a Boulangerie for some coffee and pastries. Yummy!



Slow travelling gives you an opportunity to meet all kinds of people. Riding past a couple on a tandem, pulling a trailer, they caught our attention and we had to hear their story. We pulled over and a conversation ensued. They were from Germany and in their third week of a two year ride through Europe and to Africa. The wife had just retired and the husband quit his job at 60 just to take the trip. Some people dream big!

 


We set up our tent at a campground just outside of Dunkirk. The campsite was set in the sand dunes atop a hill overlooking the English channel. What a great spot for our last night of camping. The sound of the ocean waves rolling onto the shore and the occasional seagull calling into the night should provide a great night's sleep. Tomorrow we ride back into Calais where this whole journey started three months ago.



Keep on rolling

Scott and Sarah

Rode 45 miles

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