Saturday, July 6, 2013

Day 1 - Amsterdam to Vianen

Today we met up with the other riders from the trip. There are about 36 of us in total. The barge known as “Magnifique” is larger than I expected and nicely appointed. There is a group of 5 people from Germany, another group of 3 from New Zealand, a collection of 18, mostly women nurses who are a group from Chicago and LA, another group of 4 from LA, and then there is Aila and me. The people are all very friendly and we are having a good time getting to know each other. The cycling skills of most people here are what you would expect: the adventure is to see the sights and the bicycle riding is an added bonus, instead of the usual trip where the riding is the dominant activity.
We boarded the barge just before noon and headed out at 2PM. After a short cruise out of Amsterdam, we selected our bikes and headed onto the bike path towards Vianen, where we are spending the night. Most people have not been on a bike trip before and so the anticipation was present in the air. Our bikes are heavy steel upright machines that have 7 gears and both hand brakes and coaster brakes. There are very much different than any road bike.

One of many windmills that we will see

The bike paths are extremely good here and very clean. One thing to know however, is that cars do get to drive on them, and can come up from behind or forward from the front. They have no qualms about passing you, however they do it carefully. I know Aila finds this a bit unnerving, but she is getting used to it. The drivers are far, far better towards cyclists than anywhere in America, hands down.
There are plenty of drawbridges too

Along the ride we saw several working windmills, many dykes and numerous waterways. As you might know, much of this area is lower than sea-level. The Dutch have been ingenious about keeping the ocean water out for centuries now. We are still in the area of The Netherlands known as Holland. Many people think these are one and the same, but they are not. Holland is a specific area of The Netherlands that includes Amsterdam.
The canals are green with plants and algae

The weather today was perfect, sunny and warm and that is the projected weather for the entire week. Hopefully, we have lucked out for this trip. The ride today was only for 90 minutes and was about 10.5 miles. So far, we have been riding as a group making up a long line of bikes. Perhaps this will change over the week, but since this is a guided tour ride, I suspect most will stick together.
Cars and bikes share some of the paths

Tomorrow, we will be riding 31 miles. I know Aila is a bit nervous about this, as the most she has done in a day is 20. We have all day to see the sights and make the ride, and I fully expect that she will be successful.
There are many mansions along the waterways

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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