Cycling


This morning, we woke up to spend the morning at the cheese market. We had recently watched a PBS special about what it is, so I had some idea of what to expect, but it’s always amazing to see how a town square can fill up and transform over night! The cheese was there. Laid out in long piles, with farmers in traditional dress there to do the bargaining. According to the tv show, the farmers will hold hands as though shaking right hands and then pat their left hands over the right as they negotiate a price for the lot. The gratuitous girls in their wooden shoes and traditional dress wandered around holding giant wheels of cheese. I don’t know why.

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We watched for a while, and suprisingly, saw two farmers NOT reach a deal. Got pretty heated. Cool.

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Then we went to check out the market. They had an appropriate cheese making display.

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And there were tables of cheese for sale.

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And oh thank goodness, Olie Bolen and waffles! (not cheese)

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We perused the stalls. Bought some fruit for later, looked at hats for G but couldn’t find a good one, and ultimately, Geert got bored. We had walked into town the same way as on our tour the last night, so I had a surprise: I knew where the Lego store was. This was appreciated much more than the market stalls, and we spent at least an hour here. First, looking at a car to buy (he settled on the exact some one that Malachi had bought), then just spending time at the table playing. It was much needed downtime.

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We had to be back at the boat to ride before lunch, so headed back with a snack stop for mom.

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We rode through town, and like all Dutch towns, it was darling. It opened up on the “other side” and turned a bit more of what looked like metropolitan Europe. Neat apartments, tiny yards. We rode next to a small canal in the shade for a while, through a relatively busy part of town. A small green dingy with a mom and three girls in it puttered by. The oldest girl was navigating while the others ate sandwiches. I wanted to do that.

A bit of construction slowed us down, but we hit the next town to eat lunch at the canal. We sat and watched the drawbridge (that we had just ridden over) go up and down to let boats through. It didn’t wait to go up and down at particular intervals, like I oftentimes see in the states, it just went every time a boat came through, which was OFTEN. We sat eating sandwiches and feeding ducks for 30min and it must have gone up 5 times. Fun also to see all the different types of bridges – the one went up with counterweights.

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Not much longer and we arrived at the dairy farm Kaasboerderij Lena’s Hoeve (I think). We were there to sample, and apparently, hopefully buy, cheese, and so the kids could play. They had fresh milk and cheese (delicious) in the courtyard, and ran to play in the barns.

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Loads of fun. Then it was time to play “Dutch golf”, where the golf club is a wooden shoe. I wasn’t sure how this was supposed to work, but had been given warning the night before to bring a change of clothes and perhaps even shoes. This I promptly forgot in the morning and had brought neither with me. But it looked okay. The kids got these ridiculous sticks with wooden shoe carvings on them, and were supposed to whack these rubber balls around between holes on this picturesque green field, wind turbines turning in the background. Bucolic and idyllic.

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So the field was surrounded by a little moat or waterway. No idea how deep it was, but if the ball went in the water or across to the other side, the children were expected to retrieve it. They hop on a “float” which may or may not have a guideline to pull to get across. They looked pretty stable and I wasn’t too worried. Aine lost a ball across the way and went to get it, seated on the boat, gently pulling herself across, no problem.

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Next, Geert lost a ball, and I thought it would be fun for he and Aine to go get it together. Look how pretty:

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Except that right after I took this picture, the float began to drift towards Aine, pulling Geert closer to the line. As it did so, he got pulled until the best decision he could make was to just jump right off the float and into water almost up to his waist, feet deep in sticky muck. It literally looked like he just hopped off and into the water for no reason. This was not good. I sort of freaked. “Geert! What are you doing?!” He waded through the thick, sucky muck to the edge and I pulled him out, dripping and muddy, and confused.

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We stomped back to the barn where the farmer’s wife and kids were still playing and talking to Rita and asked if she had an extra towel I could use to help clean him off. No. A hose? No. Rita piquantly added that this is why they told us to bring things “just in case”. Grrrrr. Okay fine. I took him into the little bathroom with a little tiny tiny sink and a little tiny tiny cloth towel, stripped him naked below the waist and rinsed him off. Fully aware that I’m wrecking the bathroom, but grumpy that I can’t get any help and grumpy that I didn’t know or remember enough to bring what would have helped. I sort of got mud every where, but ultimately, he was wet and shiny and mudless, and his socks, and shoes, and underwear and shorts ran with clean water. I wrung them out, put his shorts on him commando and we walked out. Here the farmer’s wife helped a bit. I laid his socks and underwear in the sun to dry on the warm pavement and she gave me newspaper to change in and out of the shoes and they dried in the sun. He played happily, oblivious, without underwear, while everything dried.

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The other kids came back from playing and added to the fun.

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I cooled off a bit and decided that I would, in fact, like to buy cheese. They could vacuum seal it so we could take it home without refrigeration. I chose an aged cheese and one with cumin in it, which was surprisingly good. I even took a picture of the farmer’s wife and her cheese store. Harumph.

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And a really big cheese pot.

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Geert’s clothes and shoes were quite dry by the time it was time to go, and we went back to the bikes and mused at the cows, all lined up with colossal udders, waiting to be let in to be milked.

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A short, but pretty ride to the next town.

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The kid with the big muscles helped bring the bags in,

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And took in his surroundings for the night.

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I started letting Geert “sleep in”. I would get up and dressed, set out his clothes for him, and all by his big old self, he would wake up, see the clothes, put them on and come upstairs. This seemed to get him 30-40 extra minutes of sleeping time, which he desperately needed. After being used to anywhere from 11-12 hours of sleep every night at home, 10 and activity all day was starting to catch up. This morning, however, he came up to THIS. Dutch pancakes with margarine and chocolate sprinkles. Dad would be proud.

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We had some sailing to do this morning, so he started the day playing Legos with Malachi, who always shared without being asked.

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We started calling the boys the “twins” because they always seemed to be wearing similar clothes and were the same size, despite Malachi being almost a year older. We cruised for a few hours down a large canal towards Dordrecht and then up towards Kinderdijk. We always had great weather for sailing.

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We got off the boat and had a short ride towards Kinderdijk, a place I’ve wanted to see forever! It wasn’t as majestic as I’d imagined, but still, that’s a lot of windmills in one place.

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Apparently, we came in the back way – which afforded us this great view, without a lot of traffic.

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Unfortunately, right after I took this picture, the path got a bit congested. Folks were stopping to take pictures (unlike me, with my catlike mobile phone snapping) and Hans, who perpetually was looking around where he was going, rather than at where he was going, sideswiped an old lady who was paused on the side of the path. I heard a yelp and so as I pulled up, got off my bike to make sure she was okay. She was frozen and when I looked down, she was bleeding everywhere. I think the fender had sliced her calf. She handed me a tissue (she spoke no English) and I held pressure until it seemed to stop. Sitting, on the ground, getting blood all over myself. Once it stopped, it wasn’t too deep, but her skin was so fragile that she was developing a hematoma under it. Katherine stopped by and what do you know, she’s a wound care nurse. We used Rita’s kit to make a pretty pathetic bandage and Rita explained to her that she needed to go right to the hospital for stitches and to make sure she had a tetanus shot up to date. When she pulled her foot out of her shoe, it was filled with a giant clot of blood. Ew. Hans was crying – he knew it was his fault – and stayed away. But ultimately, they left, and we rode close to the windmills.

At this point, Geert really started lagging behind. I saw him really pushing on the pedals and he was going NOWHERE. He started to cry. I got off and checked his bike and his brakes were on so hard he couldn’t turn the pedals over! I felt TERRIBLE – had his brakes been on this whole trip?? What happened that they suddenly got so much worse? My baby! He walked his bike closer to the snack shack, where we were going to take a break, and we let Rita take a look at it.

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Here she is looking at the bike (which took, seriously, over 30 minutes) and if you look closely, you’ll see that his handlebars are spun around 360deg. Which puts on the brake. Which she didn’t notice.

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She examined the brake forever and I slowly realized: she doesn’t know how to fix bikes. But she has the tools. And I don’t know how to fix bikes. This would have all been so much easier had Brad been there – he could have figured it out immediately AND fixed the brake (which was also broken, it turned out), but rather, we watched her fiddle forever. After she got the bars turned around, we saw that the brake pads would keep listing to one side and rub against the wheel as well. Tightening helped temporarily, but soon they would move and the “run” of the bike would slow down impressively. So we developed a system. Geert would not realize he couldn’t keep up because he was jetlagged and on the oblivious side anyway, but I would realize and have him stop his bike. I could reach over and re-center the brake pads, and he would speed up double. We did this for the rest of the trip, and yes, he was fast, and yes, his brakes had been on pretty much the whole time since we had started. Sorry, G. :(

We took a group shot for posterity

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Wrestled Aldo (which was great, I think Geert missed his dad and Aldo was so generous to let him in on the pile-on)

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After lunch, the twins got a snack

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And we headed off again. Before we even got out of the town, Aisling blew another flat. The same one from Efteling. Argh. So we spent an hour (an HOUR), while Rita attempted to fix the tire. Again, I’m not sure why there’s not a test for this before you get the job. Rather than just replace the tube and patch the flat at the boat (which would have taken 5 minutes), she spent the hour trying to patch the tube while it was still ON THE WHEEL. This is 100% embarrassing. When I told Brad later, he laughed incredulously. But now resigned, I sat in the shade, and the Malachi taught Geert to wrestle up on the Dike. It was so funny – the report I got from Malachi (in his Irish accent): “I taught G to wrestle! He was quite good. I beat him three times but he beat me twice!” Geert beamed. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever really known Geert to wrestle around with another boy. It might seem silly, but it was like magic to me.

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We rode an hour or two and stopped for a snack in a small park. Rita brought out a soccer ball, but the kids weren’t too interested. We looked for bugs and someone accidentally sat in stinging nettle, which I’d heard of, but never seen before! Apparently it really burns, but there is another plant that grows nearby with leaves that you tear off and rub on your rash to help it feel better. Hmmm. Malachi said it worked.

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Rode in the sunshine for another hour or two, which was lovely. Here we are on a path that’s 2 meters BELOW sea level.

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The path wound through parks and over canals

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And when we finally arrived at the boat in Gouda, the captain had set up the ladder from the side of the boat and encouraged the kids to jump right in! Rein facetiously told us how warm the water was (we all knew he’s a big liar by now), but the kids ran to get their suits on. Even I jumped in. No, I did not touch the bottom.

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We had a stupendous dinner (yes, I took a picture of my plate, don’t judge me) and Geert was thrilled to have pork cutlets!

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After dinner, we propped the kids up in front of a movie on Aldo’s laptop, and Rita took us out for a brief tour of Gouda. Here’s the “land side” of our docking for the night – reminds me of Oma’s windmill painting.

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We headed over a lock that once upon a time kept boats from coming into Gouda unless they paid a toll, and up the little canal towards the city center.

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And I really wish I could remember why I took this picture. It had to do with the architecture of this particular building – the glass maybe? But already I don’t remember. I need to write these blog posts sooner after I get home than I do.

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Gouda was darling. This is a church from the 1300’s that is famous for its windows and something else that I forget. See what I mean about writing these posts?

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And this is the little alley directly across from its front door. Directly across – 20 feet, I think!

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Tiny, well-kept gardens were everywhere. I took a picture of this one to think of tips for my own garden back home (which will never look like this).

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Towards the city center and to the main square

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Where we found city hall

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This square is where we would come for the Kaas Market tomorrow (cheese market!) So we went home, put the kids to bed and called it a day.

Today was considered a “rest day”, and also, coincidentally, Malachi’s 8th birthday. We would be staying in Heusden for another night and folks were encouraged to do whatever they’d like for fun. The Canadians decided to visit Eric’s dutch relatives (much to Thomas’s chagrin) but all other involved parties decided to make the trek to Efteling Amusement Park. Rita decided it would be a good idea to lead us out, since the route was a bit tricky, and we got ready. With help from Aine.

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We set off on a beautiful sunny day, for the 30k round trip – our longest yet! We sailed through Heusden, which was beautiful, and out into the countryside. I tried to remember each turn and look on signs for what number we were on, but soon got muddled. Geert seemed to be holding his own today and had the privilege of riding behind Rita (the kids had taken daily turns for this honor). We were riding down a narrow, but rural road when we approached a one lane tunnel through a dike. A car was coming on the other side. I called out to Rita (since G was right behind her) that the car was coming, thinking she would stop and yield to the car, but no, she goes right into the tunnel and G goes right through behind her. My heart seriously stopped. He was in a one lane tunnel going head-on towards a car traveling at least 40mph. He stayed the side, kept a straight line, and did not die. But i think i did. Seriously, just typing it makes me die all over again. Freakin’ Dutch!!

We all made it alive (with the exception of yours truly) to the park, which was situated in a rather busy section of town. It was MUCH larger than I expected. We parked in the impressively expansive bike parking lot (okay, another point back to the Dutch) and got in line for tickets. Right through the gate was the park lagoon with Aladdin’s castle and a watershow. Kinda boring, but kinda impressive.

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Despite the long ride, Geraldine suggested we hit the roller coasters first and eat snacks in line. She’s a wise amusement park veteran. The first was a racer-type coaster with some type of dragon motif. When we got there, it became obvious that the German boys were not fans of coasters and they begged off, so it was just G and I and the Irish.

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We snacked in line (more pan aux chocolat) and watched it go over our heads. No loops or tricks, so G was excited. He and Malachi were brave enough to ride together!

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This ride was fun. Big hills, a water vs fire thing where my coaster spiraled around a blast of flame and Geert’s around a spurt of fountain (that did a good job getting him wet), so the Irish kids got into high gear and were clamoring for “the big one”. G was nervous. “The big one” had a double loop. And a double spiral. Whoa. I talked him into waiting in line to at least kill time and told him if we got to the gate and he didn’t want to go, we’d wait for the Irish on the other side. He was still nervous.

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This line was a bit longer, so we ate sandwiches and had drinks from our packs. All the Irish kids, especially Malachi were excited about this one and kept talking it up to Geert. When the time came, he VERY nervously stepped in the car and decided to make a go of it. I was extremely pleased that they had shoulder harnesses with this rubber vest inside that actually held his tiny body into the seat (unlike the Phantom’s revenge in Kennywood where Brad had thought he might pop out). He squeezed the handbars with white knuckles and as the car started to ascend the first hill, he started to cry. A panicked weeping. Oh man. No backing out now. We climbed higher and higher and he cried louder and then WHIZZZZZ!!! we dropped down the first hill and through the first loop and I looked over to see him laughing. LAUGHING! hysterically! He laughed and whooped his way through the second loop and the spirals and the corkscrews and was beaming terrifically when we came to a stop. He demanded to go again. Phew. But no, let’s go check out another ride. It’s already after lunch and all we’ve done is two coasters.

We headed for the flying Dutchman ride, since the park seemed to be directing attention towards it and waited in an incredibly long line. Over an hour, I think. Fortunately, most of the waiting was inside in the airconditioning, but it was in dark spooky rooms with pirates and skeletons and fake treasure and weird music. The kids weren’t scared, but it was weird. And honestly, we didn’t even know what kind of ride it was. We finally got to the cars and they were hybrid coaster/boats. Hm.

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The ride wound around inside the building around other “ships in the night”, then went up this big hill in the night, then paused with us practically on our backs. Then we screamed down a hill, diving back into the sunlight where the ride kind of turned into a log jam thing. Totally weird and not worth the hour wait at all. Loops were better. So we got ice cream.

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We decided to check out the other side of the park and got to ride fun cars. At Kennywood, the cars rather drive themselves and you just push on the gas, but Geert actually got to steer this one, which he really liked.

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The Irish wanted to do the giant pirate boat swing, so G and I tried to shoot stuff.

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We got back together, and with the limited time left, went for one more run on the double loop coaster (atta boy, G!) and then headed to the fairytale forest, apparently the oldest part of the park. Stopped for jelly beans and fake youtube photo ops.

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The kids were really doing well, but starting to fade a bit. We got to the forest and couldn’t help but laugh. Talk about weird. Different scenes along winding paths, with a moving character or two and recorded mini-stories. Here’s Rapunzel:

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and Hansel and Gretel:

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You know the kids are losing interest when they start hanging from poles that are not part of the attraction:

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It was just about time to meet up anyway, so we headed towards the entrance and the conveniently placed giftshop, where we found the Germans. After the Irish picked out a few things, we headed to the bikes. We loaded up and got out of the lot and to the car parking lot when Aisling discovered she had a flat tire. And we didn’t have Rita with us (the lady with the equipment, of course). Aldo and she headed back to the bike lot to ask about patches and we sat. In the sun. For at least an hour. Hungry, and with a 15k ride ahead of us. Apparently, they tried three patches and glue didn’t hold or something. I thought the Dutch would know how to fix a tire, seriously. FINALLY, we felt ready. Somehow I took the lead and we truly magically managed to find our way back with the map. The bike routes seem similar to how the streets are labeled – you make your way to the next numbered marker, not along numbered or named routes. So rather than looking to see if we’d reached a landmark, we’d have to look for the next sign with an arrow, apparently meaning we were on our way. But some signs were missing. At least twice, we’d realized we’d missed a turn and would have to double back. In a park, I realized we were off track and found a bunch of cycling geriatrics who spoke no english. We figured it out by going towards the right town name and actually made it back on track! We so happily found ourselves back in Heusden and I was completely amazed by Geert’s stamina. The kid was fast today. He stayed right behind me and was FAST! Miracle! We pulled back into the dock and saw this:

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Glory of glories it was a cookout. The night was perfect and somehow completely bug-free. Chef and Rein and even Captain manned the grill and we ate like kings.

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The next surprise came out as we finished eating. For Malachi’s birthday. How unbelievably thoughtful and special!

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Malachi was congratulated by the captain and we ate a fantastic cream cake.

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Then time for some night swimming! Captain set up the ladder from the dock into the water for the kids. Here they are deciding who will be brave enough to go in first. It was Aisling.

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Then time for bed. The wifi signal here was great, so I sat out on the deck after putting Geert down and was able to call Brad. Somehow he was free and I got to tell him all about the trip. So nice to be able to be in touch even if just for a night.

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Today we woke up to sunshine! Rein, the first mate, told us that there was a “zero” percent chance of rain, so I skipped the rain jackets, packed our lunches, and we headed out to the bikes!

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We started our ride on the outskirts of town (after a blissfully peaceful night with no boats knocking around), and headed towards the city center of Gorinchem.

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We arrived at a very small ferry terminal (which we would catch later) and parked our bikes for the walk to the center square.

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I saw this on the way:

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If you look closely, you’ll see the battery on the rear mount. Sigh. Why don’t we have set-ups like this just sitting in front of a window on the sidewalk in the States?

In the town center, we got our bearings, and split into teams. Geert really wanted to stay with Malachi, so Aldo took G, Malachi, and Thomas, and the four men made a team. I teamed up with the Irish lasses (Geraldine, Aisling and Aine), and the Germans stuck with the Canadians.

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This was our “treasure hunt”:

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What an INGENIOUS way to discover the town. We girls walked, briskly (we don’t want to lose, you know) toward the first stop. Some were a bit tricky, but we meandered through small stone paved alleyways, under ancient arches, popped up on medieval dikes and learned more about the city in such a fun way,than I ever expected to learn. Here’s an archway from the 14th century: (the fourteenth century!!)

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And a view of one of the old gates to the city and the canals, from atop the medieval fortress wall:

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We made it back to the city center and found Rita waiting for us at the fountain. We were the first in, but we’d also started first, so our standing was yet unassured. But after 5min, 10min, our victory was sealed! But then we kept waiting. After a rather long while, the Canadian/German team made it, despite starting after the boys. Hmmm. We waited. And waited some more. We had a ferry to catch, you know. People started talking about coffee and hot chocolate, so I decided to walk back to the ferry terminal to see if somehow they’d ended up there by the bikes (the hunt ended with an arch in the city center, the one that Hugo de Groot had been smuggled under in a book trunk in the 1600’s before the Spanish Inquisition – I think). If they finished the tour, they’d HAVE to end up in the center, and we’d have seen them. As I neared the dock, I saw Aldo sitting on the bench, boys running around him. He looked tired.
“Where ya been, Aldo?” I quipped.
“What do you mean? We won! Where have you been?” was his retort.
Hilarious. I asked him if he’d checked everything off his list? “Yep” Are you SUUURE? “Yep” Did you find the arch with the 13-something date on it? “Yep” Right, sigh, okay, come get some coffee. So we walked back into town, the boys trailing behind, and got coffee, just in time to finish and catch the ferry.

To get to Castle Loevestine, we got to take two ferries. We had lunch on the first, but it was starting to get a bit cooler and cloudier out and Geert and I ended up back inside.

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Our first ferry stop was some ancient wall, where we got off to wait about 10min for the next ferry.

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Then off to the castle!

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The ferry dock was right in front of the castle, upon which ground broke in 1361. Whoa. See the moat?

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Inside, we headed to the visitor center/gift shop, where we picked up our “tickets”, which were plastic keys hung from lanyards to wear around our neck. These keys would allow us access to the buildings and also, if you saw a info post, you could slide your key in the lock and a short audio tour would start in your own language. Genius.

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The boys sword fought in the gift shop (as any good knight would), then we gathered our things and went to explore.

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This is the the original part of the castle, and it expanded out from this center building over hundreds of year. There’s a draw-bridge for the inner moat, in addition to the outer moat, AND the castle is on an island. Triple water crossing. Cool.

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Just sitting in a box under the trees were some kid toys – stilts, iron rings to push, and hobby horses, so kids could just see what they felt like horsing around with (ha).

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We crossed the bridge, and “unlocked” the gate to get inside the castle. Down a kind of creepy staircase was a room with gear to dress up like a knight or a lady. The Irish kids were into it. Geert, not so much. He seemed to already be dragging a little bit.

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We went through various rooms in the castle – this is an ingenious bench in the enormous dining room, with a backrest that swivels from side to side. If your belly gets too hot in front of the fire, you can switch the backrest and warm your bum!

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We got to another chamber where a woman was stationed who could give a history story in any language (oh, the multilingual Dutch), in front of a scene set up on the floor with plastic soldiers. The boys weren’t interested, but she told us how during WWII many important Dutch documents were smuggled into Castle Loevestine and successfully hidden from the Nazi’s.

We saw frescos that were 600+ years old

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And found an outhouse, which was amusing. I don’t remember the exact story, but apparently in medieval times, foes used to dump dead bodies in the moats of castles to poison the drinking water and force defenders out. Castle Loevestine had a very deep well, which was protected from that disgustingness, and could hold out sieges much longer than the average castle.

Alas, even that didn’t hold G’s attention. He started to wander, so I followed his lead and we went back outside. He found the gunpowder tower and we climbed the stairs to find a fun interactive display. They were teaching you the ingredients to make gunpowder with ye so much charcoal, saltpeter, and sulfur. So Geert got to try different recipes by slipping bags in the holes.

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The voice would heckle him about what a crappy soldier he was for getting the ratios wrong when all of a sudden LIGHTNING LIGHTNING BAAAAMM!! The room flickered with bright lights and then a red light explosion! Geert and I both screamed! and laughed so hard, we couldn’t breath. Nice job, G, you finally figured it out, and holy cow we weren’t expecting it to blow up. We left to find the next thing to do.

Outside we found a bunker, but it only had an audio display (boring), then saw some kids firing muskets and gave that a try.

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The guns had laser pointers so you could hit the faraway targets, and again with the heckling. So funny.

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Then we gave the canon a try, which was really heavy. We were rewarded with another loud BOOM when Geert figured out the order for how to load and tamp down, etc the canon.

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We wandered around a bit more, checking out some of the living quarters. Soldiers who lived there had families at one point, so there was a small school room and some kid artifacts, which were fascinating. We met up with the others at the appointed time, got to keep our keys, and headed towards the bikes as the drizzle started.

We rode in POURING rain for what seemed forever. Geert had been dragging a bit at the castle and now on the bikes, he was having a really hard time. He seemed to be able to up his effort when I “cheered” for him, but otherwise we were way off the back. In the pouring rain.

We stopped at a little family bar for hot chocolate in small paper cups. Somehow the kids found South Park? Great. When the swearing got pretty good, we were able to change it to the Tour de France, which no one was really interested in. Ironically.

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More riding through the rain. We passed fields and went through ten house towns. We rode up on the dikes for most of it, at one point passing a small house seemingly in the middle of a tiny tiny nowhere town. The house was nestled at the bottom of the dike and two 12-ish year old girls were walking a horse in the yard next to it, beautiful and pink-cheeked and laughing in the rain. What it’s like to live out here, where you can see the sky, I wondered. Then another cable ferry crossing, the biggest one yet!

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Rain was dripping down the inside of my coat, my pants were stuck to my legs. Geert seemed relatively unphased, because he’s awesome, and because when I stripped him out of all his wet gear one back at the boat, I was shocked to find him DRY inside. Dry! What the…

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We finally made it back to the boat, docked in the lovely town of Heusden, took hot long showers, and had the daily snack along with some good Uno playing.

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What a beautiful spot, especially as the sun started to peek out from underneath the clouds.

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Dinner was, as usual, superb. Having a chef on the boat was such a great experience. Home-cooked meals that were balanced and delicious made such a difference over eating out every night. Geert impressed everyone with his exceptional vegetable eating (more than any other kid there) and was always happy with what he ate. He still asks me to make “Dutch meat on noodles”, but I have no idea what that was. Some kind of spicy, dry shredded/chunked beef, with a gravy sauce and buttered noodles. I think he ate three servings this night.

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We plopped the kids in front of Aldo’s laptop for a movie, and I headed out for a self-guided tour of Heusden with Aldo and Geraldine.

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What a beautiful town. All the Dutch towns we saw or rode through were beautiful. All neat and clean. All with manicured, even if tiny landscaping. There must be a vestigial part of me that’s Dutch. Geert, well, that’s obvious.

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We got back right at the end of the movie and put very tired kids to bed.

It was raining when we got up at 8am. I woke G up, got him dressed and headed up for breakfast, which was announced, like all meals, by chef telling a kid to ring the bell. This morning he had a buffet set out on the bar – yogurt, muesli, granola, chocopuffs, breads, meats, cheeses, sliced cucumbers, rolls, milk, coffee, tea. Geert got chocopuffs with milk and juice, which he loved and ate two bowls. At each placemat there was an extra piece of fruit, a juice box, and a mini candybar. Also a mug filled with a roll of plastic bags and ties and after breakfast we would head back to the bar and make a packed lunch. I made some PBJs, took a bag of cukes and a pain aux chocolate and put them in our new red bike bags with all the extras from the table. Rita blithely said that riding in the Netherlands means riding in the rain, so we got on our rain jackets, and, spirits relatively high, set out.

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We headed up the canal, in the rain, Geert on his too-big bike that prevented him from being able to put his feet down without getting off the saddle. Without helmets on. Brad and I had discussed this before the trip – the Dutch NEVER wear helmets. You are on bike paths. The other bikes and cars respect you. They are large and cumbersome to carry. But the Dutch don’t ride on tours with kids from Ireland, Canada and Germany who don’t pay attention and who crash. A lot. In the first hour and a half of riding, we had three wrecks. Malachi went off the edge and swept out, screaming, but recovering nicely. 20 minutes later, Eva (German mom) wasn’t watching where she was going and ran into her own son, Joseph, and wiped them both out. He cried pretty hard for a ten year old who’s as tall as me. Not 20 minutes after that, Malachi wipes out again. SERIOUSLY PEOPLE!! Now I’m really wishing Geert had a helmet on and mad at myself for not bringing one. I kept him towards the back of the back, in front of me, talking to him the whole time (I’m sure in a not at all appreciated way) about slow down, speed up, stay to the right, heads up. He didn’t complain. Actually, I’m not sure how much thought was being processed in his tiny, jet-lagged head. He seemed a bit on auto-pilot. And still a bit slow. I’d usually have to encourage him to catch up, which struck me as a bit weird. Maybe it was the too-big bike or the jet-lag.

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And soon, we saw our first real windmill.

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And shortly after, another one! (Man, they’re really everywhere!)

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We paused for a group shot. From left to right: Thomas, Eric, Catherine (the Canadians), Eva, Joseph, Hans (the Germans), Aldo, Aine, Geraldine, Aisling, Malachi (the Irish), and me and G

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We continued on, and while the rain had paused for a moment, it started up again, with quite the vengeance. Luckily, we were close to our first stop, a little cafe in a tiny town with a name I forget, and we stopped in for hot chocolates and coffees. They had games for the kids there (to be a recurring theme everywhere we went, the Dutch are so family friendly),and they played while it poured.

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Geert took to the Irish kids and Thomas like they were his own siblings. At home, he’ll sometimes cling in situations where he doesn’t know the other kids, but here he stepped right into this new family like he’d known them forever. I was happy, if somewhat surprised. He and Aine made a connect 4 picture.

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Geraldine and I cracking up about something

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After waiting as long as we could, there was a temporary break in the downpour and we kept riding. Nothing particularly touristy, just the canals through the countryside, which are certainly pretty enough. The rain started up again. I couldn’t take any pictures because, you know, we’re riding in the pouring rain. About another hour and a half later, going at our 8 mph speed, we got to our next stop. Another little family run cafe in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, set up with plastic roofing over patio furniture and a tiny outdoor kitchen/restaurant. They let us sit to eat our lunch, while their pet rooster and dog wandered between our feet and their cat jumped on the table next to our sandwiches. Malachi left his sandwich on the stool and the dog stole it and ran away.

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It continued to rain and the kids had to use the bathroom. They let us use the bathroom in what I presume was their house, behind the patio, and while it wasn’t immaculate, the dirty wet children made a bit of a mess of it. And we were using up a lot of their tables (not that anyone else was there by this point), so we ordered tea. Fresh mint tea. On the spot for a rainy afternoon.

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The cafe also served as the gatekeeper for the motorized float that crossed the canal to the other side. How fun is that?! We watched some girls get pulled across the river, after they had looked both ways for boat traffic. Apparently, the motor pulls a thick cable that sits on the bottom of the canal. I’m still amazed it’s deep enough not to snag passing boats.

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We paid our tabs, saddled up, and what?? We get to cross on the float?! Hooraaaay!! One euro paid the toll.

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We rode on for a while more, and arrived at a pond in a park.

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Rita said that last week the weather was sunny and really warm and the place was packed. Today, while it had stopped raining again, it was cloudy and quite cool, and we had the place to ourselves. There was a beach with grass and picnic tables, and water toys in the sand. The kids played on a zip-line, deciding if they would change into suits for a plunge.

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Geraldine, who turned out to be the one we could count on to swim in any weather, encouraged the kids to suit up and get in.

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It was BRISK.

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Geraldine and Aisling swam out a bit further and Thomas followed, Geraldine claiming that the water was warmer where it was a bit deeper (she’s a big liar) and Geert tried to get it to get used to it.

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I joined him and seriously, it caught my breath away to dunk. Geert was freezing and despite lunch and snacks, starting to lose it a little bit. We dried off and warmed up, and soon were on our way again, actually quite close to the boat.

Arriving at the boat, chef had cookies and kool aid waiting for the kids. They played more Uno, had their snack and waited for dinner. At 6pm, one of the kids range the bell and we had a nice warm dinner. Chef (who’s real name is Bauke) turned out to be quite the master in the galley kitchen. Our dinners were delicious, well balanced, home cooked meals and Geert ate like a champ. We didn’t do much after dinner except let the kids play while the parents uploaded pictures to relatives or facebook. Everyone stayed up a bit late and Geert finally crashed. A great first full day of riding.

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Brad and I set out this morning, thinking that we were driving to Louisville, KY to watch the World Cyclocross Championships, and were pretty psyched about it. Waffles, good coffee, and on the road almost on time. Even with the “snow emergency” in the forecast, we let it dampen our spirits not. On the road, whatev’s. Hit it.

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But, uh, three hours later as we were finally getting to Cincinnati (which should take about 1.5 hrs) and hitting the worst stretch of road mashed potato snow, with big blue smears on the radar still headed our way, we started to re-think. Maaaaybe we could get there in time for the men’s championship race, but it would be close. Sooo, after driving for 5-6 hours we could watch a one hour race and then have to turn around and drive right home. Which could take six more hours since more gigantic blue smears were on the way. Hm. So instead of watching this:

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we drove to Ikea, ate meatballs, bought the kids new snuggly stuffed animals and this:

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which i suppose we’ll watch longer than for an hour.

I thought you’d all like to see the new ride! Looks familiar, huh? After riding Stacy’s bike so much over the past two months she decided I needed one of my own. Thanks Stace – I love it!

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On the way home from the grocery story – with a week’s worth of groceries!

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Today, I attached Leva’s new seat. Look out library! Look out community pool! Nothing can stop us now!

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Be like the Fischers. Take the 2 Mile Challenge.

Pictures of the party here: Birthday

The Electra Amsterdam

Stacy’s Birthday Present


What a surprise!

Where do I start?!

I love the whole, "In my last year of racing, I made an error…" sob story. After you had secured millions, won the World Championships, Paris-Roubaix 3 times, Tour of Flanders 3 times, as well as Paris-Tours, the HEW Classics and the Amstel Gold you decided to risk everything and take drugs – once

The funniest part is that his former manager (Patrick Lefevere) is taking a lot of heat right now for not only taking drugs while riding, but also supplying his riders with the juice when he became a manager (which he vehemently denies, of course). Lefevere is even suing a newspaper over it. Now it comes out that his star rider (and current team PR manager) took drugs and stands accused of taking part in a drug ring! This all after lashing out at The Discovery Channel for signing a suspected drug cheat (Ivan Basso) who hasn’t been convicted of anything!

I’m officially a T-Mobile fan now.

Cycling is great; there’s excitement all year round. Just think how exciting the off-season would be if the steroid-taking freaks in the NFL, MLB and NBA were actually tested!

I dropped my bike off at the shop today, and seeing all the new shiny bikes got me pumped up for warmer weather! Last week it rained 4 straight days leaving our entire yard, as well as the city of Columbus, flooded. I can’t wait to get back out on the trails when the temperature drops and the ground freezes. I’ve been running and riding the rollers off and on this winter, and I even tried playing basketball last week (big mistake – I’m still paying for it). Hopefully, I did enough this winter so my first real bike ride leaves me feeling invigorated and not miserably sore.

In an effort to bolster my off-season workout motivation I revisited video taken from our trip to Belgium last year. The clip below is from the Tour of Flanders. Pardon it’s brevity, but I think you’ll get a good idea of just how big cycling is over there. It doesn’t hurt that it captures Belgium’s "golden boy" and World Champion, Tom Boonen.

Enjoy.

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