The ride to the North Sea beach at Bloemendaal aan Zee takes 30 minutes or less, depending on your mood and how much air is in your tires (ha!). Believe it or not, this is a quiet summer day riding out to the sea.
The dunes are peaceful and serene from Monday to Friday with a few elderly dog walkers or occasional bicycle tourists passing through these parts, and the sound of grasses blowing in the wind. Saturdays and Sundays you feel like you could be in a bicycle race, with hundreds of recreational cyclists on their "sport-fiets" riding as fast as possible, winding around each other, and the hum of rubber on pavement.
We often navigate near motor scooters, cars and their "door-zones," passing through traffic circles and interacting with automobiles regularly. The infrastructure helps, but more than that, the people in the motor vehicles help. Driving education helped them help the cyclists, and in most cases the drivers are also cyclists, so they understand what sharing the road means.
In the past few years I have really become really obsessed with bicycles, to be honest the Tour De France and professional cycling hasn't been a big interest. I would watch occasional highlights on TV for major races and Youtube the "Best of" whatever in Pro-Cycling(usually crash compilations or hair raising mountain descents). Nobody really watches an entire race on TV unless you're actually interested in it or have a favourite team or rider.
Imagine, for a moment, a national park boasting vistas reminiscent of Canadian boreal forests, the African plains and lonely marshland. At the heart of this little slice of wilderness is a major art museum housing the second largest Van Gogh collection in the world and a 25 hectare sculpure garden. And best of all, the first thing you see upon entering the park are racks of complimentary bicycles.
What we had in mind was a bike ride around Gouda's countryside, conveniently called the KoeKaasRoute (Cow Cheese Route). Yes, Gouda is where Gouda cheese is made, but it's not pronounced "Goo-da" like we say it in Canada, it's more like "How-da," with a little saliva sound at the beginning. Sounds delicious, I know! The KoeKaasRoute starts in Gouda's town centre and takes you past idyllic farms, nature reserves and historic sites. We think the full route is about 45 km, so a perfect day ride with farm tours and cheese samples along the way.
The second half, closer to the Atlantic coast, was intense with about three hours of constant 30-50km/h wind, intermittent heavy rain and hail. During this time I was riding a very remote section of these parts through the Killeter forest and surrounding open bog lands, and I didn't see anybody for two hours. It was a truly awakening experience to realize "the weather sucks, nobody is coming if something happens, I am not prepared to camp, ride as fast as possible to get out of here before dark."
Everywhere I go, people ask where I'm from, why I'm riding a "push-bike" in the rain and how it's going. There were many epic hills again this day and ultra-fast descents with the wind at my back and rain in the face. Extreme adventure and fun! I was happy I made it, had a hot shower, and then ate the best fish and chips ever... but not before photographing "Let the Dance Begin", the purpose of my visit to Strabane.