© 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.
My Floris V Pad Hiking Numbers:
- Floris V Pad- Amsterdam to Bergen op Zoom total distance 245 km
- Diemen to Weesp – 9.6km
- Total to date hiked – 103km
- Distance to complete – 141.1km
As I pushed my way out the door last week to hike another section of the Floris V Pad I was greeted with beautiful weather. To me it felt almost like a normal pre COVID day until… I got to the bus stop where I had to place a mask on my face for the journey. Just a week had passed by since my hike with my friend through Amsterdam but riding the train with her seemed to fly by without much thinking about the hassle of wearing a mask. Now, my stomach turned with anxiety as I started my journey.
Bus 300→Schiphol Airport → Train to Amsterdam Central → Train to Diemen.
The more than hour ride on the crowded public transport was enough to make me question my sanity of hiking. Taking the public transport to get to my start point, my inner voice constantly asking what if?
“What if that person that just coughed behind me has the Delta variant?”
“What if those tourists that got on the train carried a new form of the virus here to Amsterdam?”
“What if this mask I am wearing isn’t good enough?”
The biggest what if… “What if the vaccine I got doesn’t protect me?”
By the time I got off the train in Diemen I was pretty frazzled. As I came off the train platform, I encountered the first challenge in the hike. A construction worker directing me that I couldn’t walk in the direction I needed to go. I am sure I gave him an eye roll and a dirty look.
As I altered my path to the left, in an entirely different direction from the start of the trail, I grabbed my Garmin 64s gps out of the backpack and paired it with my phone. Realizing with shock, that my phone was at 50% battery and that I didn’t have the charging cable or my back up power pack! Not a great start to the day, to realize that I wasn’t prepared. I better just find my way to the start point.
I decided to walk in a square around the construction site. That sounds easy but in this country of water, canals and large housing areas it is always an adventure. You can start out thinking “I will just go down this street and then cut back across.” Then realize that when you finally get across a canal of water, that you could be very far away from where you wanted or needed to be.
I lucked out this time. I found a small bridge across the water, cut through several parking lots of several high rise apartment buildings, walked back in the direction I wanted to go from the train station, then I was back in familiar territory of the week prior.
Now at my start point, I headed East towards Weesp through a very industrial area. Passing a car repair shop, some business that dealt in designer items (wondered why here?), and the largest thrift store in Diemen. I was tempted to stop and shop but my backpack was already full of gear, it really didn’t seem wise.
The trail now started to look a bit more like the other sections of the Floris V Pad that I have already hiked. Suddenly I was in an area that had a horse stable! Then trees lined the path and the sound of the city rush seemed to disappear as did my earlier anxiety of public transport and frustration of not being prepared.
The path was in stark contrast to the public transport. Quiet, hardly any people.
I came to a nice bench in a wooded spot and looked at my phone battery. It was decreasing fast with the Garmin app active. I quickly texted the Hubby my situation so that if he tried to reach me by phone he would know why I wasn’t answering.
As I enjoyed my coffee on the bench and watched the walkers, dog walkers, and park cleaners pass by me I looked over and saw this.
I let out a loud laugh! Was I getting a message from the universe? I got up from my bench to get a closer look.
Yup, someone has been to Las Vegas! That sticker must have a story to tell! I laughed again at the thought of who might have placed it here in Diemen.
As I continued my hike towards Weesp I entered into a forested area. This one had a large sign with information about the area and what I might find while hiking. I smirked to myself when I saw a pine marten and a snake nicely displayed. Knowing that it was the middle of the day and very warm, not likely to see any of those creatures today!
I was on the trail totally alone, walking through what seemed to me like isolated territory, less than 12 km from the center of Amsterdam. This foot path was wonderful. I was watching my phone battery slowly die as I hiked the path. Just as I lifted my eyes from a near dead phone battery, I stood still in shock as this snake blocked my passage!
This was only the second snake I have ever seen while living in The Netherlands (15 years). Not caring that my battery was almost dead I took a picture of this very upset snake. If he was any bigger I would have taken his threats of pulling himself off the ground and making the ring around his neck flare outward seriously. At only about a foot and half long and not poisonous I knew he wouldn’t be a threat. I waited for him to backdown and move off the trail.
The day was getting warmer as I walked now out of the forest and back into farm country. I came along a very nice roadside stand that was selling eggs, and ice cream. With a nice sitting area for a person to take a rest. I couldn’t resist the ice cream. I sat and enjoyed the cool treat and was entertained by a passing damsel fly that stopped also for a rest. My universe felt perfect at that moment.
Weesp is where I started this hiking adventure of the Floris V Pad in late 2018. Now coming into the town from a different direction I experienced the cosy neighborhoods with beautiful front gardens as I wound into the town center where I had started this trail.
I finally reached the point where I had started. I quickly turned on the phone and took a picture of the point.
I walked through town, placed the mask on my face and entered the train station. My legs felt the strain of the walk but my spirit felt renewed.
Interested in my other Floris V Pad hiking sections? You can link to my start in Weesp here, or search Floris V Pad in the menu bar to read about my other section hikes.
© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved.
I had planned to hike Friday but a storm blew in and pushed my plans to Saturday.
I once again had the Hubby be my transportation to and from locations. Due to another mid day appointment we started our day at 05:30. It must be a passion to get up at that hour during retirement!
It was a cool morning at 3.5 C or 38 F. I layered in my wool garments and was even to the point of being over warm by the end of my 9 km hike.
The first thing that greeted me on the trail was the songs of thousands of birds coming from the Nature Sanctuary.
I saw this seriously serious birder but he wasn’t alone as I passed several with large lens at the start of the trailhead.
The first part of the trail was hard packed dirt that was on top of an old dike. Off to the left with a good 20 foot drop in elevation was flat green farmland, to my right the bird sanctuary. Birds kept flying overhead either leaving the protected area for the fields or returning. Each take off and landing was filled with a chorus of bird noises.
While I was hiking the Hubby tried his hand again at photographing the birds with his small lens. Here are some of his shots from his morning.
After about a kilometer I hit a turn where the trail headed more South towards my destination of Schoonhoven. The rest of the hike was a hardtop access road for large farms that lined the river.
There was plenty to see in this farm country. Lambs, poultry, milk cows and beautifully groomed gardens. The sounds of chug, chug, swish,… coming from the dairy farms brought back memories from my farm life childhood. The hard work that never ends. Did the Dutch kids working this morning have big dreams of escaping to another country, or profession? I wondered as I continued hiking onward.
I passed a small family run park with an invitation to sit. I did just long enough to get a good swig of water. Making a note that this was a really cool area created by these people.
I didn’t have much time to get back on the trail. I kept watching the traffic on the other side of the river to see when the “pace/chase/support”Hubby vehicle would pass by. Soon I saw him and he asked how I was doing.
Now the pressure was on to get moving and stop taking so many picture stops.
One last place before Schoonhoven caught my eye and I had to stop.
As I entered Schoonhoven I once again encountered the trail sign issue that seems common in larger towns. Not very clear what direction I should go with several trails, numbers, and directions placed on poles and mostly no indication which trail is the Floris V Pad direction.
I stopped, looked at my map, consulted my cell phone map, and at one point after going with the sign posted on a pole, got that gut feeling that I was walking in the wrong direction. Stopped again, checked again, back tracked and went the most logical way through town. That took me through the city park that was part of the old fort style city defense. These are easy to pick out on satellite photos as they look like large stars with a canal of water that separates it from the rest of the landscape.
While leaving the park I saw a group of women having an outdoor fitness class. I surprised them by stopping, dropping (with backpack still on my back) and entertaining them with four pushups. I laughed and mentioned I could do more if I hadn’t had already hiked 8kms. They all laughed and I am sure they had something to share the rest of the day of how some old American lady, fitness bombed them.😂😂
I was soon after at my end point, the Schoonhoven ferry boat.
My hike of 9 km was complete. I went off to locate the Hubby, who was parked at a nearby parking lot.
Some of the views from my route.
© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved.