On The Road To Arnhem

This morning I packed up and left The Pig, bound by bicycle to Arnhem. I’d said goodbye to everyone I could catch on short notice, and I hope to see most of them again someday. I’d spent most of the evening over at one of my Dutch friends place (the guy who’d found the web version of the journal), drinking beer and chatting until about 2am. He’s cool people, and I can only hope that the rest of my trip is filled with meeting people equally cool as those I met in Amsterdam.

As I rode both too and from his place, a good 30 minutes by bike south of Amsterdam the city in what we’d call a suburb, I was again struck by how much I was starting to like this place. Amsterdam is unique, and that best parts of being there aren’t found in the headshops, coffee shops or the red light district. Until I can find work here I can’t afford to stay, but I’ve decided to actively pursue work and hopefully one day spend some real time here.

To my delight I did get to say goodbye to the redheaded bartender as I was packing the bike this morning. We talked until she had to return to work, and hopefully we’ll see each other at a party in Eindhoven next weekend she’s planning to be at. I still don’t know what to say about that situation, so I’ll keep my mouth mostly shut, but I will say that at least one person in particular made Amsterdam that much brighter for me with a smile.

The road (or series of semi-linked bike paths) out of Amsterdam was relatively nondescript until I’d actually left the city. On the way though I did find myself riding through Martin Luther King Park and J F KennedyStraat. Interesting to see the Dutch honoring American public heroes. I guess some names really get around.

I left the city around 12:30pm and started south along the river Amstel. Amsterdam itself simply ended between one block and the next, and I was in the countryside. As I trekked southeast I could still see some of the skyscrapers, all of them new and many still under construction, that dot the outskirts of Amsterdam. Within the first hour I was passing through the first two villages (Oucghtsomething and Aorchgtsomething) and out in the boonies.

The first few hours were a lot of dicking around with the load out on the bike and backpack, trying to work things so that I didn’t end up with a ruptured disk. One nice Dutch bicyclist, who does a measly 15,000 km a year (that’s about 9,000 miles to you barbarians), politely suggested that I get a new seat and perhaps ditch 1/2 of what I was carrying. I took him up on the suggestion of the seat and ducked into a nearby bike shop, quickly to emerge with a seat that was not made out of ceramic and was broader than the average pencil. In short order I was quite pleased with that decision.

The Dutch countryside is generally quite pretty. Admittedly, when one thinks of countryside, while sitting in one’s uncomfortable office chair, looking at the moron across the cube from you picking his nose and then wiping it on the mouse pad, one normally thinks things like “Cool,” “Green,” and “Refreshing.”

But in reality, today in Holland one would have gotten 1 out of 3. It was about 90F and as humid as Pennsylvania on a bad summer day. And it was quite well fertilized. But it was definitely green, and as long as I was nearer the canals and rivers it didn’t smell like West Texas during the cattle drive.

As I rode I passed plenty of windmills, canals, houseboats and other bits of Dutch arcania. Supposedly I passed two ruined castles, but I never saw them. Most of the time Dutch ?castles? are essentially really big houses, with maybe a moat, so I might have ridden right by them. In general I had trouble keeping track of where I was until I grew impatient and duct-taped my map case to the bike handlebars. Then the only problem was keeping myself hydrated with the roughly 384 liters of water I consumed during the trip.

By 6 pm I was just North of Utrecht, a major city south east of A’dam. Unfortunately, the route I took into Utrecht went through The Bermuda Suburban Triangle and I got hopelessly lost in a particularly mundane set of apartment complexes. I asked around and eventually got help from a nice Korean couple who argued incessantly with each other about how to send me to Belgium, and was finally rescued by a 15 year old Dutch kid who was apparently so pleased to talk to a Live American that he forgot all about Belgium. He gave me directions that sent me to Utrecht instead, and after 45 minutes I was on my way.

By 6:30 I was through Utrecht and had formed that firm opinion based on limited knowledge that Utrecht sucked. Gone were the hoards of nice, if spatially confused, Dutch people. In their place I was faced with people who avoided me at all costs short of throwing themselves under a bus, and fled to the furthest corner of the bus stop box as if I was a leaper or something. Even shouting my requests slowly and loudly didn’t seem to help.

Ok, so maybe I was just a tad fragrant by then. All right, so maybe with my hair wildly stuck to my face and my veins bulging and a constant wheezing pant coming from my lungs I wasn’t getting across the image of the cosmopolitan and worldly traveler I wanted to. So what? I didn’t actually

Ah, fuck ’em. I’m still getting more exercise than I should without an ER team standing by at all times. In three months my legs will look like THE THREE PILLARS OF MIGHT!!

Incidentally, do you have any idea what a city canal smells like when it’s getting drained? If you wish to simulate this experience, stuff your head down the next porta-potty you find at a major sporting event.

(Author’s Note: It appears Duri has had a bit too much sun today. We?ll be moving along now.)

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