Archive | August 2012

Netherlands Update

It has been a busy week two weeks since my last post.

I have been primarily focused on getting the house settled in.  I think we are at about 90% unpacked and about 75% with furniture and stuff in the right places.

Good News.  Yesterday we got TV/Internet/Telephone.  I am not sure of the equivalent in the States but it all comes in over the telephone lines.  It is pretty good.  The internet is at least five times faster than what I was able to get in the Oberpfalz, Germany.  Television is international with a bunch of English Channels including BBC channels, Discovery, History, CNN and HBO.  Surprisingly the Dutch channels are made up of American programming with Dutch subtitles.

Bicycling.  I made two trips into a nearby town “Sittard” about five miles away.  I think it is one of the larger towns in the area, but I am not sure.    The market in the town is pretty incredible.  It is jammed packed with all sorts of temporary stands, trailers and the like.   I saw butcher stands, flowers, cheese, bakers.. It took up the entire market square and the roads leading to the square radiating 1-2 blocks in each direction.  It is kind of like Pike Street Market in Seattle on steroids.

A couple of pictures of the Sittard Market:

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I couldn’t help but get hungry and thirsty while I walked through.

The market area is a pedestrian zone with paid parking on the edge of the zone.  There was an area in the parking lot for bicycles.  It was monitored by an older gentleman who gave me a ticket (like a coat check) and I left my bike.  When I cam back I tried to pay but the man said it was free and would not take my money.  My best guess from the explanation is that the city pays for this service so the bikes stay out of the crowded market area.  Here is a picture:

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Yes.  If Hank Robinson is reading this that is my ugly anti theft green bicycle in the Sittard Bike Lot.

I did get one more picture.  It is the landmark that I use to navigate visually by to get home (until I get a feel of the area).

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This is the church in our small town.  I can see it for several miles.  In the bottom left of the picture is our house.  It is the the house with a tower (or so the locals call it).  My house is about two blocks away from the church.

My last piece of information… Yesterday I learned that our house lies on a long distance hiking/biking route from the southern part of the NL to the northern part it is about 400KM long.  It is called Pieterpad.  I think that will be my next major ride.  Anyone interested for Early October???

Weekly Update

20 August 12

It has been both a busy and uneventful week in the Netherlands for me. It has been crazy hot if we were not at 100 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday we were close. I have to find my weather station and get it set up.

I have spent the better part of the week arranging, unpacking and settling in. On Friday 17 August 12 our remaining items (the heavy boxes of books, pottery and crystal) arrived contained in 4.5 crates. It looks like we have too much of what we don’t need and not enough of what we do need. Crystal and I spent Saturday and Sunday going through the boxes While most of the boxes have been unpacked we still have to move the stuff to where it needs to go. Overall in the settling in process, I suspect I am at about 50% complete.

I haven’t run or biked for a couple of days as it has been too hot and I have been too tired moving boxes and furniture.

I did see on the NW (? maybe I still need a good map) horizon an old windmill I am going to try to get over to take pictures sometime this week.

I still need to check out the museum in town. When the moving company announced they were coming with the remaining crates I had to rearrange my schedule for last week.

Internet access. I am still waiting on our Telephone/TV/Internet to be connected. Since we signed up we have received either a letter or a package from our provider on a near every other day basis. The one letter I have been waiting – the time the tech is arriving – has not. The stuff they are sending looks really cool though. Until the tech arrives, internet access is limited at the house to 1G though iPads and iPhones. It makes it hard loading Facebook, WordPress Blogs…. I have “liked”/”Followed” many Blogs and Facebook postings only to find out that it never reached the server. Maybe this week internet access will stabilize.

Tomorrow is my wife’s Birthday – so I am posting a picture of her and I on top of the Zugspitz from July.

That is all for this week.

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Weekly Update

We have been in our house for about ten days and it has been a fast and furious ten days. Here is what has been going on around the Bailey house:

1. Driver Licenses. Took the course and passed the exam for a NATO License to drive in the Netherlands. This is one of three licenses we will end up getting. The next is tomorrow when the VW Toureg is registered. When we get the registration we will also get licenses so we can drive the vehicle. Finally once we get our resident’s cards (a four week process) we can then initiate the process for Dutch driver’s licenses. I thought the DMV’s in the States were a pain….

2. Telephone, Internet and Television. Apparently these are all mixed together. The general rule is if you are not a Dutch resident with a telephone number you cannot have telephone, internet and television at your house. This became quite an issue with us severing customer loyalty to T-Mobile and initiating a new relationship with KPN (the national Dutch provider). Of all of the places we went the local KPN office in Sittard (a nearby city) went above and beyond to help us with getting new iPhones, Sims for our iPads and a package for the house that includes telephone, internet and television ( including BBC One and Two and several English Channels). I think our price is more than Germany but in line with what I believe the cost of living is. We are just now waiting for the appointment to connect the house.

a. Fiber Optic. Interestingly the day the packers brought some of our shipment was the day that the Fiber Optic installers were working on our street to provide all houses in the town Fiber. I suspect in about nine months the fiber will be on line for usage. (not sure why it takes so long). In the end it was chaos with ditch diggers and packers swarming the entrance of the house all morning.

3. Packers. 2/3’s of our stuff arrived last Thursday. The other 1/3 is in Antwerp awaiting processing (not sure why – except US, Dutch, NATO bureaucracy slowing things down)

The majority of the furniture, household goods and clothes arrived. We (Crystal and I) have been unpacking boxes like crazy. The Living Room, Dining Room and Master Bedroom are basically laid out furniture wise… Now it is a process of sorting and placing things in their place

4. Crate 14 or the crate that has the coffee making supplies and machine. This crate has not arrived. As it stands I am using a French Press and I realized, I am no good at using my French Press. My skill has been inconsistent at best either making a fair cup to a terrible cup. I think I am going to switch to the mocha machine (stove top Italian style) that Hank Robinson gave me. I used to be able to make a good Americano with it.

5. An inventory of the town as observe in my morning runs and rides:

1 herd of deer across the street
3 Donkeys next door
?? Goats somewhere nearby I have not seen them but I hear them all day long.
2 + 1 Bakeries (one is closed but I think it opens next week after vacation)
1 Grocery Store with local fresh produce
1 Cathedral that has a bell that rings on the 1/2 hour
1 Eis Cafe with great coffee and friendly service.
1 Museum – Going to try and look at it Wednesday
5 Art Galleries – I think the town might be a local Artists Colony.

6. Bicycling

I went on my first ride to the nearby town of Valkenberg. Just to get an idea of what biking is like here. The terrain is relatively flat with rolling hills. Much easier to pedal in then in the Oberpfalz, Germany with the huge climbs to get to anywhere. The one thing I got in to bicycle traffic. Where I had to pass people. It was kind of nice as the past five years I was basically the only one out and about. Also the cars were very careful of all the bicyclers on the road. I hope that is the rule rather than the aberration for the day.

I guess that is all I have right now. With boxes getting upacked a bit of settling I will have more time to explore.

Andy

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Bike Ride to the Netherlands Conclusion

It has been about a week since I completed the ride. Recently I have been immersed in transitioning details to our new residence in the Netherlands. Internet access has been dodgy at best, so maintaining this blog and other net based communications have been difficult.

I have started to feel like I have mostly recovered from the ride. I am back out jogging in the mornings.

Here are the things I learned:

Google Maps is both hero and villain in my trek. I utilized google maps to plot out my ride as a series of towns that I should check point through instead of printing off maps. This was intended to coincide with the way Germany uses direction markers to indicate which towns you are heading toward as opposed to following street names. It mostly worked. Google Maps failed to synchronize well with the conditions on the ground. Example one of the towns I should have gone through was Bischofsheim as indicated on Google Maps, however the traffic signs noted it as Frankfurt-BF (or something like that). Until I figure out the discrepancy, I did a lot of turning around. It happened a lot on the ride between Seligenstadt to Montabaur.

iPhone Google Maps doesn’t differentiate between paved, gravel and mud roads. When I would get to a point that I was not sure which direction to go as the German traffic signs indicate several possible routes, I would consult iPhone Google Maps. More than once I ended up on sand, gravel or mud as I pedaled. I was truly grateful I did not have a flat tire.

Topography. I need to do a better job of researching the topography. I know in hind sight that most of the hills (small mountains) I climbed were probably avoidable. There were only two points where I think I could not avoid huge climbs – Out of the Rhein and over the Spessarts. Climbing the Spessarts was an issue of limited time to follow the Main river valley from Wuerzburg to Seligenstadt would have added an additional day that I did not have. The climb out of the Rhine to get into the Eifel and then to the NL additionally was unavoidable, but not as significant as the Spessarts.

Gear. I am not sure if I brought too much gear or not enough. I think using BoB (my bike trailer) was the right thing to do. I was much more stable without a lot of gear heaped on my back rack.

Lodging. The lodging met the need except in Montabaur. I stayed at a castle there that doubled as a huge conference/symposium/campus where business and universities would meet for retreats. It was quite nice.
I used booking.com and my criteria was availability and customer rating/review. The other places I stayed ended up being on the edges of town so it was not easy to get into town and explore a bit. I think I will try TripAdvisor next time. They spam my Facebook account enough to deserve a chance.

The Ride itself was great. I am glad I did it. In fact as look back on it, I find it a bit unbelievable that I did.

If I did it again or something along those lines, I think I would have broken the daily distances down to about 50-60 miles. At 60 miles I would have only added one day and at 50 miles it would have added two maybe three.
The advantages of shorter distances would have allowed a little more exploration of the towns I visited, more time to take pictures, take impromptu stops, and take a more leisurely pace. In all truth, I usually had the first forty miles of each day done by 1300.

That is about all I have to say about the trip. Would I do it again? Probably not. Not because it was too long or anything like that, but if I was to plan another 400 mile trip, I would explore somewhere else. Along those lines I am thinking England or France for the next big tour. Anyone up for joining me? You can put some of your gear in BoB.

Enjoy.

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