Tiresome

With the temperature close to 10 °C (50 °F), the weather forecasts devoid of rain, and my agenda empty, today was a good day for a bike ride. There was a rather strong southwesterly wind, so I arranged the route for headwinds first and tailwinds later. Since there’s only so many places one can find southwest of Leiden, I was pretty much going to redo my dune ride from four weeks ago. That’s fine, because I had a lot of fun with that one. I had a bit more time today, so I decided to extend the trip from Wassenaar to Scheveningen and cycle back through the dunes from there.

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The blue trail is the ride I did last time, and the purple trail is today’s extended edition. The part within Leiden was also different this time around, but not enough that I felt like redrawing the picture. Starting at the B, I went from Leiden to Wassenaar and Scheveningen, then up north to Katwijk and back to Leiden.

Things were fine exactly to the point where I moved onto the new (purple) part, at the northern edge of Wassenaar. I’d stopped to check the map and make sure I was taking the right turn, and when I pushed off again, my bike felt all wobbly. The cause was quickly identified: a flat front tire. Just my luck!

Fortunately, I had brought a repair kit, unlike the last two times I went for a long ride, so in a way I really was lucky. I flipped my bike upside down and freed the inner tire from the outer. Next task: to find the puncture. But how to do that without a bucket of water to run the tire through? After doing nothing for a couple of minutes except sort of hoping the problem would magically fix itself, a friendly passer-by suggested that I might be able to hear the air hissing out if I inflated the tire a bit more. Sure enough, that worked and I found a tiny puncture.

And another one.

And a third.

Strangely enough, the outer tire looked fine. I examined it inside and out and couldn’t find anything that might have punctured the inner tire once, let alone three times. Anyway, having found the holes, it wasn’t much more work to repair the tire. But would the repairs hold?

I still wanted to do the entire ride, so I just took my chances and went for it. I made it through Wassenaar without the tire going flat again. On to Scheveningen and the trip’s half-way point… still nothing. By then I’d stopped worrying, leaving more room in my head to enjoy the ride. And enjoy I did! Scheveningen and especially Wassenaar are very wealthy towns, and the road I followed apparently is a favourite place for people to build their villas.

After the half-way point at Scheveningen I went into the dunes, following a bike trail that meanders all the way up to the town of Katwijk. The wind was still blowing strongly from the southwest, pushing me along hard. After suffering headwinds for the first twenty kilometres (12 mi), I was looking forward to that! It’s too bad that going fast also means the fun is over pretty quickly. Still, it was great while it lasted.

I went for a snack in Katwijk and walked around on the beach for a while, where the wind was even stronger than in the dunes. A couple of birds were enjoying the wind too, as well as the two fries I accidentally dropped. Oh well, good for them.

On the way back to Leiden my legs were beginning to hurt, and by the time I got home I was ready to just lie down and not move for a couple of hours. I guess that was to be expected after 43.6 km (27.1 mi). Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite go straight to bed. For one thing, it was only 6pm, which is really a bit too early. For another, I had to repair my front tire again. One of the patches had come partially loose, probably when I hit a bump in the road about a kilometre before I got home. That was annoying, but of course not all that bad, as it could have happened earlier just as easily. I just replaced the patch, taking extra care to seal it properly this time. Let’s hope the tire is still full tomorrow.

Winter ride

The lovely weather today made me feel like going for a bike ride, so that’s exactly what I did. It was quite cold (around 9 °C or 48 °F), but once I was underway, that didn’t really bother me. There was a decent bit of wind (though not nearly the storm from a few days ago), so I planned my ride for headwinds the first part and tailwinds the last part.

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Starting from the B, I headed west out of the city and rode around part of the Valkenburgse Meer (Valkenburg Lake). From there I zigzagged to the small village of Rijksdorp, just north from the town of Wassenaar, which is one of the Netherlands’ most wealthy places. I carried on westwards into the dunes and turned right just before I got to the beach, following a truly wonderful bike trail through the dunes to the beach town of Katwijk. After a brief stop at the Katwijk beach, I made my way back to Leiden, with a detour past the Old Observatory. The entire ride was 32.7 km (20.3 mi) long; that’s my longest tour since last July’s Flower Bulb Route, and the longest ride I’ve ever done in any winter. I guess that’s the advantage of the current one being a few degrees warmer than normal.

The dunes northwest of Rijksdorp, with the beach and the North Sea behind me. The dunes extend about two kilometers from the beach.
The bike trail as it winds its way through the dunes. I followed the trail for about ten kilometers (six miles), but it runs for at least another ten in the other direction. There’s hardly a flat or straight part anywhere, making for a fun ride–especially with the strong tailwind I had today.
Sunset at the Katwijk beach at around half past four. The structures just visible on the left part of the horizon are probably part of the Rotterdam harbour, over thirty kilometers (19 miles) away. This harbour is the largest in Europe and was the largest in the world until 2004.

For some more pictures, check out the Dune Route album in my photo galleries.

Flower Bulb Route

It was lovely weather today and I had nothing pressing to do, so that made for a perfect opportunity to finally check out some of the land surrounding Leiden. It’s almost a year now since I moved here and I’ve hardly ventured out of the city limits. Not anymore. I did a bike tour through the fields, towns and villages north of Leiden. From start to finish was almost exactly 50 kilometres or 31 miles.

I found this tour, called the Bollenstreekroute (Flower Bulb Route), on the website www.recreatief-fietsen.nl:

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I live just about where the word ‘Leiden’ is printed, so I first had to go from there to the tour’s official start point in the town of Warmond. (Actually, I also had to detour past the university at the west edge of Leiden to get the route details printed, since I don’t have a printer at home. This extended the ride to eactly 50 km.)

This route really is meant for the spring, when all the flower fields in this part of the country are in full bloom. The flowers were all gone now, but it was still a very nice ride through some very typical Dutch landscapes and towns.

A pasture southwest of the town of Lisse, as flat as everything around here.
A pasture southwest of the town of Lisse, as flat as everything around here.
The 78-years-old Veenenburg-Brug (Veenenburg Bridge) northwest of Lisse, passing over one of the wider canals created when peat was dug from these areas many years ago.
The 78-years-old Veenenburg-Brug (Veenenburg Bridge) northwest of Lisse, passing over one of the wider canals created when peat was dug from these areas many years ago.
The Roman-Catholic Martinuskerk (Martinus Church) in the town of Hillegom, which is just off the top right corner of the map. I had an excellent dinner in a restaurant next to this church.
The Roman-Catholic Martinuskerk (Martinus Church) in the town of Hillegom, which is just off the top right corner of the map. I had an excellent dinner in a restaurant next to this church.
The regional trein from Leiden to Zandvoort passing by the Leidse Trekvaart, a mid-17th-century canal between the cities of Haarlem and Leiden. This railroad was originally built in the 1840s and is one of the oldest of the Netherlands.
The regional trein from Leiden to Zandvoort passing by the Leidse Trekvaart, a mid-17th-century canal between the cities of Haarlem and Leiden. This railroad was originally built in the 1840s and is one of the oldest of the Netherlands.

For some more pictures, check out the Flower Bulb Route album in my photo galleries.

It’s been a long time since I last biked this much and I don’t think I’ve ever done fifty kilometres in just over four hours. I biked quite a bit in my 2000, 2001 and 2002 vacations with two high school friends, but we always took a lot more breaks. I had only one big break today (dinner just after the halfway point), plus a couple of shorter ones to take some pictures. I averaged around 20 km/h (12.5 mph) over the entire ride, excluding breaks, with several stretches were I maintained speeds up to 27 km/h (17 mph) for a reasonable amount of time. I touched 43.5 km/h (27.2 mph) on a full sprint (flat road, minor tail wind), but only for a second or two before I had to slow down again. Still, not bad on a normal (i.e., rather heavy) city bike.

Actually, I was surprised by how easily things went. I’m in decent shape and I’m used to biking, but only short distances, so I wasn’t sure how this would work out. Well, it worked out just fine. I never really felt tired or in pain, except going up a pair of viaducts close to the end.

Most importantly, I really enjoyed doing this. I normally spend way too much time behind my computer and this was a great change of scenery. I got another couple of routes off the website I mentioned earlier and with the summer ahead, I’ll definitely try some of them. I also want to repeat today’s route next year in May. With the flowers in bloom, it should be even better.

Zadelpijn

Maandagochtend, even na half negen: tijd om de fiets te pakken en naar de universiteit te gaan. Tot zover was gisteren alles normaal. Maar eh… waar was het zadel van mijn fiets? Niet waar het hoorde te zijn, dat was duidelijk. De fiets zelf stond er nog gewoon, maar zadel (en zadelpen) waren heel erg afwezig.

Dan maar lopen dus, met de ontzadelde fiets aan de hand want het leek me dat dit probleem toch via de universiteit moest worden opgelost. Vervolgens was ik ‘s ochtends druk met andere dingen, dus om 15.15u (dan zullen zelfs Spanjaarden toch wel klaar zijn met de lunch?) naar Carme (de secretaresse) en het geval uitgelegd. Zij heeft toen de receptie gebeld, waar niemand Engels spreekt maar waar wel de persoon zit die over de fietsen gaat. Wat blijkt? Die was net weg voor lunch. Om kwart over drie? Ja dus. Maar ze zouden over een uurtje wel terugbellen.

Okee, om zes uur nog niets gehoord, dus maar weer richting Carme. Die was er niet, maar Miquel (een van mijn twee begeleiders hier) wel en hij had inmiddels contact gehad met de fietsenman. We moesten maar even een nieuw zadel gaan kopen. Na een autoritje van tien minuten (met de fiets achterin) stonden we bij de plaatselijke Decathlon (je weet wel, die megasportzaak die ook een filiaal heeft bij de Amsterdam ArenA, vlakbij mega-electronicazaak Mediamarkt, die ook hier in Girona vlakbij de Decathlon zit, als je me nog kunt volgen). Daar een nieuwe zadelpen en zadel gekocht, die met veel moeite op de fiets gemonteerd werden. (De pen ging er zo lastig in, dat de kans dat hij nog een keer verwijderd wordt in ieder geval miniem is.) Fiets terug in de auto, terug naar de uni, en de dag eindigde zoals het hoort: met de fiets terug naar het appartement.

Overigens gebeurt het wel vaker dat er hier zadels worden gestolen. Miquel ging nog niet zo ver om te zeggen dat het gebruikelijk is, maar een zeldzaamheid is het zeker niet. En waarom? Dat weet hij net zo min als ik.

Typisch Spaans?

Zoals in elk land gaan ook in Spanje een aantal zaken anders dan thuis. Enkele van de meest opvallende voorbeelden:

– Fietspaden worden voor veel dingen gebruikt (voetpad, parkeerstrook), maar schijnbaar zelden om op te fietsen (dat gebeurt dan wel weer op de gewone weg of op de stoep).

– Fietsenrekken staan meestal achterstevoren.

– Bedienend personeel zegt gracias (“dank u”) als ze bijvoorbeeld het wisselgeld of de kassabon geven. Uiteraard zeg ik dank ook netjes gracias, waarna er soms nog een gracias van hun volgt.

– Als een Spanjaard z’n auto even ergens stil moet zetten, doet hij dat bij voorkeur op een plek waar het hem uitkomt, zonder nou heel veel rekening te houden met de overige weggebruikers.

– Afronden op vijf cent is hier nog ongebruikelijk. In de kantine van de universiteit kost een kop thee 43 cent en een donut kost 48 cent.

– Fietspaden en fietsstroken zijn er wel, maar niet altijd op logische plaatsen. Ongeveer de helft ligt aan de linkerkant van de weg. Ze houden ook nog wel eens plotseling op of lopen uit op een zebrapad, waar fietsers kennelijk ook gebruik van dienen te maken. (Auto’s stoppen in ieder geval voor zowel voetgangers als fietsers.)

– Rotondes kun je best gebruiken als parkeerplaats. In de buurt van de universiteit ligt een rotonde waar zowel aan de binnenkant als aan de buitenkant auto’s geparkeerd staan.

– In de straat waar ik woon zet iedereen zijn afval ‘s avonds gewoon voor de deur (dus niet ergens in een centrale afvalbak). Dit wordt ‘s nachts netjes opgehaald, soms wordt de straat ook nog even schoongemaakt, en ‘s ochtends ziet alles er weer netjes uit.

– Op bijna elke straathoek staat een geldautomaat en tussen twee hoeken in soms ook nog een. De meeste ogen niet of ze heel veel gebruikt worden en ik heb nog nooit meer dan twee personen bij één automaat gezien, waarvan ik er dan zelf altijd nog één was.