On Tuesday 20th April 2010 I did a last Tuesday ride around the streets of Houston with the West End Six Thirty group. Our bikes (my road and hybrid bikes, and the biker chick’s cruiser bike), along with the rest of our belongings, had long since departed Houston bound for Rotterdam. I had Tom B. to thank for loaning me a bike for the Tuesday ride. On Thursday I joined the group at Jax for the post-ride meal. On Friday I collected my passport and visa at the Netherlands consulate, dropped our car off at the freight company, and took a taxi to George Bush Intercontinental Airport to catch my 3.30pm flight.
On Saturday morning I flew into a damp and chilly Amsterdam Schiphol airport. Den Haag, our home for the next few years, was no drier nor warmer. I had arrived with a suitcase full of what I had been wearing the week before in Houston. I had shorts, t-shirts and sandals. What I should have packed were sweaters, scarves and boots. My first purchase in the Netherlands was a Nike sweatshirt. I would have bought gloves too, but the shop assistant told me that winter was over!
The weather stayed pretty ugly for the next few weeks. Usual Dutch spring weather in other words. It was five or six weeks before it warmed up enough for me to consider a bike ride. By then I had found Bikes For Rent. I reserved a bike for the weekend. Then I crossed fingers and toes hoping that the weather would not revert to wet and windy. Fortunately Saturday dawned dry and reasonably warm. Warm enough for my tropical blood at least. I rode away from Bikes For Rent on a three-speed Johnny Loco.
I had a map of the bike route to the beach. The map was helpful but I soon found that the bike paths in the Netherlands are very well signposted. The cycling infrastructure is really very good. The bike paths are very well marked and maintained. “Yes” everyone checks for bicycles before opening car doors.
Cyclists even have their own traffic lights.
The path to the dunes and the beach took me past the Scheveningen water tower. Built in 1874, the tower contains 1 million litres of drinking water and has the largest storage capacity of all the water towers in the Province of Zuid-Holland. It is still in use today.
It wasn’t the brightest of days so the North Sea looked pretty raw.
I didn’t expect to see World War Two gun emplacements facing out to sea along the dunes.
On the way home through Scheveningen I saw a few more signs of just how much the bicycle is the go-to mode of transportation for many in the Netherlands. I’ve seen bike racks before, but these two boys on the right took racks to another level.
You can leave your bike in a guarded bike parking areas like this one for less than €1.
The route back home took me past the Vredespaleis or Peace Palace. Andrew Carnegie donated USD1.5 million in 1903 (the equivalent of USD40 million today) to fund the construction of the Vredespaleis. Today the building houses the International Court of Justice (which is the principal judicial body of the United Nations), the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law, and the extensive Peace Palace Library.
This was a very nice welcome to riding in the Netherlands. I couldn’t wait for my road bike to arrive.