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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