Friday, July 5, 2013

Amsterdam to Bruges - Days before trip start


There it was. A small yellow jacket wasp that flew over and clung to the side of our window of the car. We were still in Newtown, CT on the way to pick up a rental car to head to JFK. This time, Aila and I are heading to Amsterdam for a bicycle/barge trip ending up in Bruges, Belgium. Our little yellow friend held fast to the outside of the window, its small yellow legs gripping the window as best it could. We started the drive along the main street of Newtown, reaching a speed of 25 miles per hour. “Buzz Aldrin”, as we nicknamed him, was still there. The wind was whipping through his little antennae, pushing them back over his head, reminiscent of what the ears and tongue of a dog would look like when it had its head out of the car’s window. What is holding this guy on, I thought? Buzz’s 6 yellow legs were spread out, clinging on. We increased the speed to 45 MPH as we started to approach the entrance to the highway. His body quivered and his wings flapped uncontrollably, but he still held on. This is amazing! His body lowered and legs spread out at what looked like the maximum angle. What will it take for him to give up? We headed onto the on-ramp and increased our car’s speed to highway levels. At 67 MPH, he was still there. You could just imagine that he was screaming out “wheeeeeeee” and having the time of his life. What was holding him on? Are his legs naturally sticky? I am not sure whether it was the amount of wind, or whether he just couldn’t take the fun anymore, but at 69 MPH, he was ripped off the window by the wind, probably wondering how he gets back to the nest, some 10 miles away by now. Oh the adventure little Buzz will be able to tell his friends, once he finds his way back.

Yes, our next cycling adventure is about to begin. We are heading to JFK for Amsterdam where Aila and I will join 26 others for a bicycle and barge trip, ending in Bruges, Belgium. This will be a different type of cycling adventure than I have had in the past. Instead of riding across the USA, the west coast, or the Blue Ridge Parkway, this one will be with city-style bikes where the prime directive of the day is not to cover lots of distance in the smallest possible time, but instead to see the sights, smell the roses and enjoy the events. Of course, if I have my way, these sights will include some beer-gardens, chocolatiers, bakeries and other “important” attractions.
Typical house along the canal

As we approached the highway towards NYC, I spoke a set of words that I never thought I would have said. “The traffic is backed up in the other direction, because the HOUSE driving along the highway is too slow and taking too many lanes”. It brought to mind several other sentences that I never thought I would have heard. Aila and I recalled some of them:
“What did you do with Morgan’s arms?” A neighbor’s child was born with a defect that caused her to have stumps for arms and legs. She would, on occasion, take them off and play without them. Hence the strange question, when it was time to send her back home.
“My mistress really loves me, and Aila responds ‘I am glad your mistress loves you’”. The first time I rode my new titanium bike, nicknamed “The Mistress”, I came back home exclaiming the sentence. My wife Aila was pleased that “The Mistress” was worth the expense.
One of the many cheese shops

We flew through Iceland to arrive in Amsterdam, tired but excited about the trip. Since the first day was mostly shot from the travelling, we simply ate a small dinner, had a beer and headed for bed.
The second day was packed with sights, museums and a canal cruise. We took in the Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandt House. Although the Rijks, as the locals say, was nice, I preferred the Rembrandt House instead. He lived in a large house off of the canal, but even though business was good, he eventually went broke and the banks took everything. How times have not changed.
Outside of the Rijksmuseum

The third day, we saw the Van Gogh Museum, the Old Church, the Amsterdam Museum and another canal cruise. We walked by the Anne Frank house, but the line was way too long to consider going in. We are getting quite good at zipping around the city using the trams.
Near the Old Church

Our hotel, The Amrath, is excellent: it was previously a shipping house. It has many interesting details to it and makes for a great hotel, if you ever stay here.
Our hotel - The Grand Hotel Amrath

I am very impressed by the food in Amsterdam. The meals here have been excellent so far. Last night, we did French cuisine - sauteed mushrooms, then baked with brie cheese and a steak with peppercorn sauce and tonight we had Italian - feta cheese, ham and olive pizza, and freshly made raviolis with mushrooms, ham and a Verde sauce.
Good food in Amsterdam

Tomorrow we start the bike/barge ride. I am looking forward to it, however I think that Aila is a bit nervous about it. I know she will do great at it. So far, she has done about 500 miles of training, both inside on the trainer and outside on the paths. We will join about 26 other people who are making this trip their adventure too. I suspect that most are not road cyclists, but more likely people who are looking for an adventure together with their spouses that has a reasonable level of cycling activity.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings. Don't forget to click on the Aila's Perspective" link to read what she has written.

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