New Bike, Old Friends in Holland

Allow me to introduce Cassy, my new ride around town this summer. She has a big ass (and belongs to me, Chris, hence the name Cassy). She’s a bit sassy, and a bit classy, a true hybrid. She actually is a hybrid bike (not super classy, I picked her up for 165€, a small fraction of what specialized touring bikes cost), not quite a mountain bike and not quite a road bike, the happy medium between the two. The thick tire and heavy frame of a mountain bike would make pedaling tiresome and the thin frame of a road bike wouldn’t be able to support the weight of carrying gear, so when I saw this 24 speed Mongoose hybrid online (2dehands.be) I quickly contacted the owner. My previous bike was a Mongoose mountain bike and the American company has never failed me in the past, plus I saw my first wild Mongoose a few months before in India and they’re damn cool animals. Infallible logic, I know.

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I bought a rear rack from a local bike shop who generously gave me some tools so that I could install the rack right there in the shop. I invested 110€ in a pair of Vaude bike panniers which clip on and off easily to the rack and have a carrying capacity of 47 liters, sufficient for the minimal gear I’m carrying. That may sound like a lot of money for bags, and it is, but it’s worth it for the convenience they provide and the assurance that they are completely waterproof. So with the rack installed on the bike and the bags attached to the rack it was full steam ahead to Holland, the land where bikes are supreme rulers of the road!

The ride from Antwerp to Rotterdam was 110km into strong headwinds. I quickly realized why Dutch windmills are famous and that biking from one place to another would be no walk in the park. I arrived in Rotterdam around 9:30, passing over the big pearl bridge with skyscrapers and massive cruise liners lining the river below. I finally arrived at the house of Willem, my old friend (from trekking the Annapurna Circuit) and guide around the city for the next few days. While biking that first day I came up with a little poem as I rolled past the canals and countryside (I had a lot of free time to think).

It’s cold but I’m sweating
I move in circles from one place to the next
Up down up down
Moving forward not back
Sitting on my ass all day
No tv in sight
I curse the wind that steals my power
Giving it to the city
Greenhouse, train, canal, flat plain
Push….Push…
All my belongings weigh less than I do
Even if you multiply them by two
The cars that pass are cordial and polite
As long as I keep to myself on the right
It’s been a long day
Enjoying the sights
Sleeping well is in the forecast tonight.

Rotterdam is a vibrant city with lots of unique architecture. The center of the city was bombed during WWII, as is depicted in a famous statue of a man with a hole in his heart by Ossip Zadkine. The reconstruction of the new city center inspired many truly unique buildings. Willem showed me around a few of these such as the modern food market with a brightly colored mural inside, the sloping roof of the Central Station, and the odd angles of a small housing district by the city center. Rotterdam has many very interesting areas, such as the harbor where the first cruise liner to depart from Europe to the USA cast off.

After a few days in Rotterdam I headed towards the northern coastal town of Noordwijk to meet up with one of my old students, Corona. Willem and I set out together that afternoon, intending to ride halfway together and then part as Willem was heading to Utrecht to visit his sister. My back tire blew out halfway there and ironically I had no spare tube or repair kit as they were part of the package I had ordered online and was to pick up at Corona’s (along with my replacement credit cards from my stolen wallet). Luckily Corona scooped me and Cassy up and we hit up the beach along with her boyfriend Jack.

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It was really nice to catch up with them and practice some acro yoga on the beach, and I had the pleasure of taking one of Corona’s yin yoga classes later that week in the town of Hilversum. (Coincidentally my friend Veronica from Thailand teaches at the same studio and I got to take her class as well, it’s a small world after all!) I always feel a sense of pride seeing the peaceful faces of the other attendants at one of my former student’s classes!

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