© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved.
Hello fellow bloggers and subscribers! It has been a very long time since I was last officially online. I had more adventures than I would like to share this fall durning my travels to the USA.
I finally got to Minnesota after a year and half of COVID restrictions that limited my travel internationally. I did some kayaking, hiking, and spent some downtime with some close friends.
I also have run out of 13GB of storage space on my blog site and have had to make some hard decisions on the future of this site. Making some hard financial decisions is never easy when I have a limited income and things that seem to suck the money out of my wallet. Don’t fear the my blog changes, as my site will continue to be advertisement free and still be my original content of our adventures.
Look for some of the changes in the coming weeks as I get things cleaned up, add some additional items to increase and help with the cost of running this international site. I would be interested in ideas from my readers (many of you have been blogging longer than I have), please shoot me a private message on my contact page if you have something you would like to see on this blog or an idea on how I can finance this site in the future. For now, I have increased my storage to the WP Business level of 200GB. That should help retain access to my older content.
Now that all the rough stuff is out of the way, how was my vacation? More like a nightmare of a trip!
Flying internationally is not fun at all during these times of COVID and being an American citizen has advantages but still the hassle of travel is just that, a hassle!! I will not be traveling to the USA again until things change in requirements of flying!
Here was a small taste of the travel process.
COVID Vaccination 2x in the Spring of 2021. Second shot placed me in bed with the most horrible headache and body aches for two days. Better than hospital with COVID! Plus, I felt so much better once I was vaccinated with being able to move around without the constant fear of catching the virus, maybe passing it to my Hubby or worse giving it to his elderly mother who suffers from dementia and is in a care facility. It was a relief to finally not have to constantly worry. The additional benefit was I was able to start back at my old volunteer job at the Historische Tuin (Historical Garden) in Aalsmeer.
Close to our scheduled vacation (yes, the Hubby planned on traveling with me to the USA and took three weeks of vacation) the USA still was only allowing US citizens or green card holders into the country (the Hubby is neither). We watched both the travel and airline news. I logged into the State Department site daily for weeks prior to travel in hopes that changes would allow the Hubby to fly with me. I purchased my airline ticket and paid the highest price I have ever paid for travel between The Netherlands and Minnesota ever!
Yes, I most likely could have gotten a cheaper flight but at my age I don’t like hopping from airport to airport for more than 24 hours just to fly cheap. Eight hours of travel is enough! I booked a non-stop to MSP with the hopes that the Hubby would still be able to fly and enter the country. As the time got closer, our hopes of a vacation together disappeared.
Then it was the COVID test time. The first test I had taken since the start if this insanity of a virus decided to ascend on our global lives. The rule here for entering the USA was to be tested 72 hours prior to flight. So on the Friday before my Monday flight I was probed with the long cotton swab into the brain tissue just on the other side of my nasal passage. My only thoughts are “why the heck do people get this done weekly for their jobs without going nuts?” “I hope I don’t have anything that would stop me from traveling! That would suck!”
Cost of the test is paid for through the Dutch government, so it was a free test. For those of you living in the USA please remember this fact as I continue on this journey.
I waited 24 hours and received a link to a QR code. That was my secondary ticket to getting on the plane here in The Netherlands. Maybe that should be third ticket as the vaccination also was needed for flight.
I flew on American Labor Day, 6 September. But, I needed two more pieces of paperwork in order to fly. A declaration of health (paper format) so that US Customs had all of us legally if we lied about COVID prior to getting on the plane. I also had to fill out another piece of paperwork for my quarantine requirement upon return to The Netherlands.
I could quarantine for five days and then take a test if it was negative then I could resume normal life, or I could quarantine upon return for 10 days and not take a test. My option after being violated with the Q-Tip was the 10 day option. I only needed to hold onto the last piece of paper, just in case someone asked for it while I was in transit.
The return flight to Amsterdam was even more crazy due to changing requirements and limited test facilities in Northern Minnesota. The fact that most test facilities were overwhelmed with people with an over 3 hour wait even if you have an appointment. It was soon apparently obvious to me that I would not be able to get a rapid test until I got to the Minneapolis airport. The Minneapolis airport has three test facilities (I didn’t know that at the time of scheduling an appointment to be taken during my 5 hour layover). I paid my $200.00 and got the last appointment available for the Sunday afternoon. If I had known about the other test sites I maybe could have gotten an appointment but it was very unclear if the results would be ready prior to my flight.
On the day of my flight out of Duluth, Delta airlines would not let me fly without my COVID test. I explained that I had one scheduled for my layover in Minneapolis and they still wouldn’t let me fly without talking to customer service.
When Delta customer service agent came on the phone he explained that due to Federal Law they could not allow me to fly but I could buy a separate ticket to Minneapolis and then get my test. I purchased an additional ticket if $340.00 plus a $30.00 suitcase charge. To say I was a bit upset at this point would be a huge understatement. Knowing that my Hubby works for an airline I was even more upset as I know there is always a way around the stupid rules without charging a customer double for a ticket. That day was not the day to fight that issue so I paid the money, got on the plane in Duluth and when I got to Minneapolis I went in search of the COVID test site.
I rented a car in Minneapolis as I knew that the testing site was somewhere in the parking garage of the airport. I drove to the test site and soon after I exited the vehicle I saw a sign that told me that if I had an appointment with a certain company for a rapid test then I was at the wrong location.
Now, I was pissed, tired, and even as tough as I am, darn close to tears. It had already been a vacation riddled with medical issues and travel woes this was nearly the last straw.
I took some deep breaths and refocused my efforts to find the test location. Parking level three. Once I found the location it was crowded with people.
At one point during my wait I was approached by a young lady who was escorting a wheelchair bound lady to Paris and had been bumped from three flights due to testing requirements and time limits running out. Could I help, she asked. I listened and told her that if she didn’t receive results in 1/2 hour to go and ask the desk. At this point I got my results and wondered if once I headed to my flight if this lady in distress would be granted her flight.
Once I got to the Delta desk things went smoothly. I was checked in documents checked and boarding pass issued. I was very happy to have my military ID to go through the fast lane but TSA stopped and searched me because my 4 pounds of wild rice set off the detectors.
So I was once again violated by a body search and complete undoing of my carry on luggage that was neatly packed.
It is no wonder that people have lost their minds on flights over the last year. As a well travelled person that is very flexible when it comes to all the changes I was pushed almost to my breaking point.
I was never so glad to be on a plane and headed back to the Hubby.
Safe and sound back at home with the Hubby.
More blogs to follow on my hiking, kayaking adventures in Minnesota in the weeks to come.
Have you ever had a horrible flight during COVID? Share in our comments section.
© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved.
I am now more than half way complete with this Floris V Pad hike to my endpoint of Bergen op Zoom. I started this 19 km section from the train station Sliedrecht Baanhoek making it a slightly longer hike. My last hike went into Papendrecht and ended at the former apartment of my in-laws. (here).
The Hubby was my transport to and from this section of my hiking experience. The Hubby deserves a very special accommodation for all the extra out of the way trips he has made for me during this trek to finish the Floris V Pad. Maybe a nice dinner?😊
This hike was one of my personal best for distance as I hiked 15 km. Mostly I am only able to hike 10 km. I also didn’t have many options of trail exit if my body decided to stop my hike early. I know many of my readers think I am endlessly adventurous and that I must be in great shape. The reality is much different. My body has suffered many injuries from my old professional career that can make it a challenge some days to complete my adventures. Yet, I keep pushing on.
Getting from my start point in Sliedrecht to the Dordrecht start point on the other side of the Wantij River I had to cross a train/bike bridge over the Beneden Merwede River. When I started up this long bike path/train bridge I forgot about the train also shared the bridge. As I was taking the above picture of Papendrecht, my heart rate was accelerated several beats (I am sure those were hearts beats I should be saving) as a train suddenly zoomed by!
After regaining a normal heart rate (this took less time than I thought it would) I continued to hike towards the next bridge. First, I was entertained by the early morning golfing community as the trail skirted a huge golf course. I could hear the chink of golf balls being hit and the collective “ahhh” and “ohhh no!” of the golfers. I kept my eyes peeled for any golf ball that would hit me on my hiking path. Luckily I was saved from such an experience.
I came to the bridge that would finally get me to the start point.
Now I was on a high dike that protects the entire river island of Dordrecht. Actually, there are a series of dikes that protect this area that has maintained a respectful ages old symbiosis with the intersections of the three main rivers that head towards the North Sea. The Oude Maas, Beneden Merwede, and the Nieuwe Merwede.
Once again on this hike I took a detour (which was longer) as I headed off the dike and into the farmland. The shade of the large trees and the views of the large farms were worth the extra kilometers I walked.
I was almost to the water ferry boat that takes people across the Nieuw Merwede River to the Biesbosch National Park. The sun was starting to heat things up and I was glad to have the nice shade.
I stopped at the picnic tables at the ferry boat landing and pulled out my thermos of hot water for coffee. I sat and watched as the crowd of bikes and autos gathered to wait for the ferry. Many of the cyclists were on vacation and were loaded with all their gear and talking to each other about their recent adventures.
One of my fellow bloggers asked me recently if I ever see any other hikers on my hikes. That was a great question! Thanks “B”!
Yes, I often see other people mostly out for a short walk on the trail, but seldom do I see anyone hiking the entire Floris V Pad or hiking it in sections like I am doing. I have only met two people hiking the entire Floris V Pad since I started in 2018. Both have been recently.
I do not take pictures of people hiking as I want to respect their privacy.
On this hike, I met Floris V Pad section hiker, Jan. I passed Jan (Jan is a common male Dutch name) as I started my hike on the dike. I saw he had the tell tale Floris V Pad book in his hands. A great opening for starting a conversation, so I asked if he was hiking it.
“Yes” he answered. He was heading to the 19km end point for this section at the Dordrecht Kilt tunnel.
Not wanting to hold him up or interfere with his hike I wished him luck as I quickly went in my way.
I stopped to make my decision to take a different path and saw that Jan went in the opposite direction, along the dike. As he had told me where his end point goal for the day would be I knew I might meet him again along the way.
As I sat at the ferry launch drinking my coffee, I looked to see if he would pass me. I didn’t see him.
I started my journey once again as the path skirts the river. A huge dike was on my right that was also a sheep pasture.
These pasture sheep were not fooled by my calling them to the fence for a treat. The lead ewe informed the others I was just another whacked out hiker.
This part of the trail has several alternative routes into the marshy woods that run along the river. As I stepped off the bike path to take the alternate route I saw that the recent rains had made the path more of a challenge. I wasn’t up for the muddy hiker experience and turned back to the bike trail.
As I did, I saw Jan lumbering down the trail in front of me. Now I put it in my head to hike faster and pass him again. The trail turned slightly to the left and I lost Jan. The trail was empty and my sudden motivation to walk faster now disappeared. It wasn’t long before I found what happened to Jan. He was sitting on a bench off to the side when I finally caught up to him. I stopped and talked to him about his hiking experience. I really enjoyed the short exchange of about on our time on this trail. We also exchanged information about other trails we have hiked or are on our “to do lists”.
The funny thing is, he seemed very happy just relaxing and I wanted to get moving as I knew my body was already close to calling it a day. That was about the 11.5 km point in my hike.
I said my good bye to Jan and started moving towards what my new end point for the day would be. A small restaurant.
The middle of the day heat was starting to break me down as I walked along the now flat and open pasture/farmfield land. I looked behind me and saw that Jan was not far behind on the trail. I put it in my head to keep going and to keep ahead of him.
I got to a good point on the trail close to the restaurant and checked my map. As I looked back to the trail I just walked Jan was just a few feet behind me. He came up alongside and confirmed that the trail went to the left. I admitted that I was going straight to the restaurant along the road to have lunch and get a ride.
I watched as he entered a wooded area and disappeared and wondered if I would see him again and concluded I most likely would not. It was nice to have met another section hiker, but as in life, we pass through sometimes only to be encouraged or to encourage others along our journey and then move on down the trail.
The Hubby came to the restaurant and we had a nice lunch and then headed off to complete the number of other tasks in our personal lives that day.
© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved.
Section by section I am getting closer to the finish mark of Bergen op Zoom.
Transport to the start point this time was the Hubby. I didn’t have a clear plan on where the trail would lead me. The initial plan was to hike the trail all the way to Dordrecht where the next noted official section of the Floris V Pad starts. The universe and my body had different plans on how this day would ultimately play out.
The morning was cool and the sky was clear. I started the hike that took me through more farmland of the Alblasserwaard.
This farmland trail had older windmills (one has been converted into a modern house) with an active water pumping station. I could hear the station pumping as I made my way along the trail.
As I approached the modern (windmill) house I started to notice artwork along my path. Then a gate that opened into a beautiful cottage garden. I took my time finding all the treasures hidden within the garden.
It was time to move on. Out of the garden, through a gate, and into a very long field, with no indicators where the trail existed. I checked the map and walked a straight line through the field. While I was hiking through the field I noticed that the canal water was moving at a good speed, most likely caused by the pumping station.
I walked a short section through a forest area then crossed a busy road intersection that shuttles traffic between Papendrecht and Schoonhoven. Once across the traffic intersection I was instantly inside the beautiful Alblasserwaard forest.
This trail now took me along tree and shrub lined trails, zig zagging through the forest. Birds singing in the canopy and insects of all sorts busy on flowers.
Somewhere around this time, I got off track of the actual Floris V Pad. Before I actually realized I was off course, I was almost on the outskirts of Papendrecht. Instead of back tracking, I just changed my plans. I texted the Hubby that I would meet him at the apartment building where he was waiting for a truck to haul off the last of his parents items.
Now I made my own trail as I wandered through the town. Papendrecht is not a small town and you really realize that when you are on foot. I walked through new housing areas and areas where time seemed to have stood still. The changes are reflected in the buildings architecture.
As I got closer to my destination I was suddenly rewarded with a new visual treat.
All of this made me smile and was well worth the trail diversion.
As I walked down the street, I found another tree community. This time there were two damsels waving at me from their perch. I am guessing they are huge Formula 1 fans, from the banner they sported from the balcony.
Soon another balcony came into view. The Hubby waited and waved to me as I made my way along the road.
Floris V Pad Stats –
Oud Alblas to Papendrecht- 8.8 km
Total to date hiked – 143.0 km
Total to Bergen op Zoom – 102.0 km
© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved.
This route of the Floris V Pad in sections is getting harder for me to remain motivated. The path is getting further away from the house and the areas are a bit of a challenge to reach via public transport. But, I keep going and I am encouraged and even inspired by some of my blog readers who have commented how much they enjoy reading about these hikes, so thank you!
On this section of the Floris V Pad, I almost skipped since I have visited the Kinderdijk enough times over the years. Hiking my way through tons of tourist is just not my thing even in normal times. In the last year I have become even more paranoid about crowds. You can read about our other adventures pre COVID time at Kinderdijk here and here.
This time I decided since the Hubby was working night shift for four straight days, I would head out on my bike for my first solo adventure since the start of the 2020 pandemic. The last time I was alone on a vacation was January 2020 when I travelled to Georgia, read about that here.
Taking public transport has gotten to be more of a hassle since the pandemic. Not only must you wear a mask at all times while on public transport here in The Netherlands, this summer you must also register your bike on the exact train schedule you plan on taking. That cramps my style and flexibility so for me it was a hassle to be set into a time slot on the train.
My plan was to “camp” out for a few days at my in-laws empty apartment. I didn’t need a ton of gear but still I had to plan like I was camping. Load my bike with all the gear and head off to the train station.
Train to Dordrecht via Rotterdam → Water bus to Papenrecht.
I had a luxury empty apartment for “camping.” A wonderful view of the Dordrecht church tower and the three major river routes that pass close to the apartment. Plus, I didn’t have to contend with a tent, other campers, or a silent virus creeping up on me in the night.
The next morning it was time to get serious about knocking out this section of the Floris V, but to get there, I first had to get to the public transport in Papendrecht. Can I add those kilometers to my total?
As I made my way through the towns of Papendrecht and then Alblasserdam, I looked at the cloud cover and wondered if I was going to be hiking in the rain today.
Once I stepped off the bus at the Kinderdijk entrance, I was surprised and a bit shocked to see I had the entire place to myself. Granted it was 08:00 in the morning, but still on a normal summer day it would be filled with foreign tourists. It felt strange to have the entire place to myself. The only other soul was a Dutch women who had camped in her camper in the parking lot overnight. She was busy sorting through her camping items and getting ready to move to her next location.
The first thing I noticed at the entrance was that there was a huge construction project. The pumping station that pumps water out of the polder and up into the Lek River is being upgraded. Another change is that the Kinderdijk visitor center and gift shop had been updated with a new building. The visitor center now has a huge observation deck on the roof. These are changes that have occurred in the last four years, the time of my last visit here.
There were also changes in walking paths along the canal and I think it must help with the over crowing of this site during a normal tourist year. I enjoyed the quiet as hiked this familiar area with no tourists to interfere with my enjoyment.
The overcast skies still looked threatening but I knew I had keep moving. After a short break at a park bench for a quick snack, I started hiking on a real foot path through the polder along the Kinderdijk canal.
On my hike two sections ago, here, I talked about walking through the field of cow manure, now It was a footpath (sheep path) of sheep manure. I have to admit that the backdrop of the Alblas windmill was breathtaking.
I climbed over two more fences and crossed over a bridge. Across a road and then back to a foot path that made me feel like I was the only person who had been on this trail in a very long time. The trail was lined with willow trees with a small canal on either side giving it a very isolated feel as I hiked along.
I came to a junction in the trail where I encountered a women with two rather large German Shepherd dogs. We had a short chat and then I sat for short rest. I was joined by a butterfly who stayed still enough for me to capture it with my camera.
The path between the canals ended in a farm field with almost no indication where the trail continued. A quick check of my map, I found I hadn’t lost my way. Soon I found a gate with a marker that eased my fears of being lost. But, the gate was locked! Now, I had to figure out how to get around the gate without falling into the canal. I tested the support beam to make sure it was stable and swung around the end of the gate. I get the feeling that the undefined trail and the gate lock was a friendly reminder to those hiking the trail that we are only visitors on this trail.
The trail now became a very long dirt driveway heading to a blacktop road. The wind started to pick up and I started to think that the rain would come at any minute.
Once I got to the blacktop road, I was now hiking on a road I had biked several times in the year we camped at Oud Alblas, I noted the changes big and small to the houses as I hiked.
Then it was a turn to my left, back into the flat farmland, another small footpath. Now, I could see the Oud Alblas church tower in the distance and knew I was almost at the end of this hike for the day. Would I make it to the end before the rain? My feet moved a bit faster through the long grassy trail.
Making it to the point outside Oud Alblas where I was first inspired to hike the Floris V Pad four years ago felt like a huge achievement. Now, more than half way to my end point in Bergan op Zoom I wanted to celebrate! Saddly, this spot is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I checked the bus schedule and saw that I had a bit of walk to get to the bus stop in Oud Alblas. Maybe I would have time for a coffee celebration at a local restaurant.
I made my way into town and saw that fours years had also brought changes to this small town. My favorite pastier was now gone (out of business I am sure due to COVID). I waited at the bus stop and the very small village bus, run by a volunteer, picked me up heading in the opposite way from Papendrecht. She invited me to ride the entire route with her but I had other ideas, a stop at one of my favorite restaurants for a coffee. She dropped me off at the restruant and told me she would be back on this route in an hour heading into Papendrecht. All I needed to do was flagged her with my arms and she would stop for me. Perfect!
Feeling guilty of my coffee indulgence, I started walking back to Oud Alblas. The rain still threaten to fall but now the wind started to make the trees sing a warning. I stopped, got my rain jacket out of the backpack, and on just as the sky opened up, dumping buckets of water. When I made it to the bus stop in Oud Alblas, I was soaked.
The bus appeared and the driver was happy to see me again although she noted that the weather had changed a little bit. When I got to Papendrecht I still had about 2 km walk to the apartment in my soaked gear. I think the universe knew I needed encouragement as I found two painted rocks along my route.
Happy to be back at the “camping” apartment, I ended the day with air drying all my gear.
Floris V Pad STATS:
This hike from Kinderdijk to Oud Alblas- 10 km
The prior hike from Streefkerk to Kinderdijk -10 km
Total to date- 134.5 km
Total to complete – 110 km
© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved