I headed out on my solo bike ride to our seasonal camping spot in Oud Alblas in mid May. You can read about the first part of my trip (here).
I made it to the outskirts of Alphen aan den Rijn and was suddenly feeling uncomfortable of the direction and the route that I choose to get through the city. Early morning in any Dutch city is perfect for riding because there is limited traffic along the route but many stores and cafe’s are not open until 10 am so I couldn’t just stop and look at the map of my route. Of course I could stop anywhere and look at the map but then I would look like every other bike tourist in this country. I vowed not to look like a tourist on this trip, not to look like I didn’t have a clue where I was going.
Instead, I criss crossed through the city looking intently for the bike point signs. Finally, frustrated at not finding the correct signs, I stopped, I referred to the map, and quickly returned it to the bike bag before I drew attention from on lookers. At one point I decided I just needed to adjust my route to the features of the city and stop looking for the darn bike points which seemed not to be located where I needed them to be on my route.
At bike point 18, I realized, I was now biking along an auto route we have taken several times through this part of town. I followed that bike path out of town and towards the town of Boskoop. Passing a huge ship container yard. I was never so glad to see the sign showing me I was outside the city limits.
I was now riding along the bike path that goes along side the N207 highway towards the small town of Boskoop. The noisy busy highway plus the headwind I was fighting was not making this bike ride the easiest I had ever biked. The sky now threaten to cut loose and rain at any moment. As I approached Boskoop, I started to look for an alternative to the headwind by going East. I turned onto a street called Rijnveld. I hoped I would find a place in this new direction to have mid morning coffee and take a good look at the map. YUME coffee and tea house looked like it would be a great place to stop and refuel and regroup.
As I rode up to this coffee place, I found that it was a perfect location for my plant loving persona. The coffee cafe is co-located with a greenhouse/garden center called Esveld.
Covering the greenhouse gate were these wonderful rose bushes.
Inside was warm, welcoming and comfortable out of the now down pouring rain. The cafe had a wonderful sitting room. One wall had floor to ceiling bookshelves. When I looked closer I saw the books were all plant books of various sorts in several different languages. I made a mental note that I should come here on a winter day and just look through the book collection.
This was the perfect place to feel comfortable as I drank my coffee, ate a wonderful piece of chocolate cake and reviewed/ reworked my bike plan to get to Gouda.
I resisted visiting the entire Esveld greenhouse as I needed to get to Oud Alblas before nightfall. There now seemed to be a break in the rain maybe I would be lucky and the weather would improve.
I only got about 2km down the road and the rain started. I stopped and pulled out my light rain coat and continued on through the countryside to Gouda. This path would have lead me right into downtown Gouda but suddenly, I was diverted by some sort of bike path construction. Once again I had to head into a city without my written plan. Now it was raining even harder as I biked along this detour bike route. I followed the signs through the downpour as I cycled into the city outskirts.
Through the pouring rain, I saw a line of clothes hanging with all sorts of messages written on them. As I saw a pair of underwear with “BIG BUTT” written in English I had to stop and take a closer look. The clothesline took up the entire length of the land owners yard.
“Strange” I thought as I was reading the messages. “This must be some sort of artist making a statement.” I continued to muse over the messages, I pulled out my lunch and enjoyed my sandwich in the rain.
The additional signage explained the idea behind the laundry and this positive effort made once per year here in this small area of Gouda. Place a message on a white piece of laundry, they would hang it out on display for the weekend and then you can return and pick it up. There had to be close to a hundred messages that I could see from my point on the street.
Even in this downpour of rain I was feeling hopeful about the world where someone could think of such a wonderful idea and the community could participate with positive messages. The idea of the wind taking those messages into the universe. I finished my sandwich and continued to head into Gouda.
It was once again challenging finding bike point signs. I was not the only bike tourist looking for bike points. I was passed by a German couple who stopped at each intersection, looked at the sign posts, shrugged their arms in disbelief and despair, had words with each other as to the direction of the next point, and then the husband took off in the direction he wanted to go as the wife continued to look for the bike point, at some point deciding that maybe she should follow her husband into the no where land of Gouda. I saw this entire scene play out at three different intersections with this same couple. I laughed silently to myself as I have seen this sort of interaction between bike couples in my past bike travels. I was thankful I was doing this alone. Only myself to blame if I got off track.
I came to the Gouda city center. I have visited the city before so I knew if I made it to the large market square I could find several bike point signs and then maybe get back on the right path I had prepared at Esveld.
I started walking my bike through the crowded shopping area. I thought it was very busy for a weekday, then I realized it was market day. There were stalls of goods lining the entire market square. Wall to wall people roamed the area looking for deals and the population was diverse. It felt like I had just walked into the center of Amsterdam on any normal day. Then I looked up and saw a huge flag hanging from the large building in the center of the square.
“Cool, flag.” I thought having forgotten that this meant that it was a special day in Gouda when the flag was flying.
It was not only Market Day in Gouda it is Cheese Market Day. This was my reward for the unplanned detour, a few minutes of watching tourists, looking at the cheese auction, and then finding my bike points to head on my way.
I stood for a while, watched the tourists, listened to the bustle of the street sounds and then looked for my elusive bike point signs. I slowly walked my bike through the crowd to a side street. Then I climbed back onto my bike and headed out of town. The day was half over and I still had to cross the Lek River by ferry boat.
More of this adventure in the next blog.
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