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Review. Everyday Bicycling: How to Ride a Bike for Transportation, by Elly Blue

Review.  Everyday Bicycling: How to Ride a Bike for Transportation, by Elly Blue

In June 1992, with my bicycle I boarded a jet to Germany, leaving my home, Portland, OR behind.  In Portland, my bike was both transportation and recreation.   It continued that way for a couple of years in Germany until pressures from work and home required me to get a car.  Bicycling became an on and off recreation and fitness valve for me until this year when I left Germany and moved to the Netherlands.

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Top 12 Events of 2012

Over the course of the year I had a lot of adventures and experiences, alone, with Crystal (my wife), with family and friends. It was both a rewarding and challenging year.  Below are probably the top twelve events for me. 

Thanksgiving in Nice

Nice Cycle Tours

Over the holiday weekend my wife had an opportunity to attend a conference in Nice, so  I joined her. Nice is an absolutely gorgeous French city.  It is even better on the off season when it is a little cooler and fewer tourists.  The weather was fantastic with highs in the mid 60’s each day.  […]

Sip, Clip and Go! Coffee for Cyclists

I had been looking for a source of coffee beans since I moved to the Netherlands.  I discovered Sip Clip and Go!  through the All Seasons Cyclist‘s recommendation.   For the past week I have been drinking and enjoying their Crank Set blend.  It is  the darkest roast of the three they sell.  The others are Carbon Free Commuter and Off the Chain.  Notice the cool bicycling theme.

The coffee beans are consistently producing a smooth rich cup of coffee.  I find myself drinking the coffee long after I usually stop for the day.

There are other very positive things that I like about this company

  • Brings together two things I like:  Bicycles and Coffee
  • Small business that supports other small businesses
  • Supports Fair Trade
  • Ships to APO’s (Army Post Office)
  • Supports Community Causes – Namely Bikes Belong

I think that several of my friends for the holidays will be getting their coffee.

Crank Set coffee pouring out of my coffee maker

Sip Clip and Go Coffee Mug

Creme forming at the top of the cup

Crank Set coffee beans

Crank Set coffee beans

Being Passed

I am not a fast biker.  Mostly because I am busy looking around at my environment to take pictures, so I am not concentrating on pace.  In the end I get passed regularly.  Right now it appears to be by groups of bikers in club uniforms, so I just shrug it off.

I always try to have my GoPro cameras running. Yesterday, I got passed by an an old lady which one of my GoPros decided to film.  Usually fog or dirt or battery prevents any good shots.

I added the jet sound, but you can hear in the background comments made by a a person in a biking group (they were just getting ready to start).  that I was passing as the old lady passed me.

Morning Tour – Sunday, 21 October 12

Taken with iPhone

Castle Rivieren, taken with iPhone

Sunday mornings have rapidly become my opportunity to explore by bicycle the scenery, the sites and routes in and around the area I live.  It has the advantage of less traffic and great lighting for pictures.   I get up at first light which right now is at about 0745 and just ride a random 15-20 mile loop. My goal is to stay on the country roads and not the main roads.  While the main roads all have bike paths on them around here the scenery is just not as interesting.

All week, we have had 60-70 F weather (13-20 C) with a bit of fog in the morning, so it was a pleasant  morning ride.  I headed East and South which took me through Aalbeek, Nuth, Klimmen and Hulsberg.

Harvest is in full swing now so the roads and paths are rough with farm debris, which makes for a dirty bike at the end of the ride.   Along the ride I saw piles of harvested sugar beets and potatoes.  Naturally all over there are the fall colors on the trees.

Along the ride I came across the pictured castle, outside of one of the little farm villages.  It looks like it has a couple of towers and a moat with a stone bridge.  The castle appears to be converted into a restaurant. Unfortunately pedaling early, I am not able to explore the grounds as it is closed up, but nice to look at from the road.

This area that I live in and ride through is fascinating to me as I run into castles everywhere and is littered with history predating the US.   My personal interests lie in I like biking, history and exploring new places combining all three makes its a great ride.  If there was coffee involved it would have been a perfect ride.

I guess I will have to come back another day to Castle Rivieren for a coffee!

Castle Wijnandsrade

Last week was pretty tough to get out and about.  It basically rained during the day and stopped only at night.  The one time I did get out, I got drenched.  The weather reminds me a lot of where I grew up, Portland, OR.  The gear that I own basically for bicycling is targeted for living in the Oberpfalz of Bavaria where I lived for the last six years, with its three weather options: bitter cold, bitter cold and wet, and warm.  Warm for me in Bavaria was 45-50 F weather that feels hot because of acclimation to the bitter cold.

I have been working and ordering new gear that is lighter weight and water resistant, so I can get out and about.  I have greatly appreciated the recommendations from  “All Seasons Cyclist” in targeting my gear search.  When the gear arrives via APO (US Army Post Office), life in the drizzling rain on bicycle I think will get better.

The rain did break on Sunday, so I was able to get out and about.  Early Sunday when I was out riding/exploring I found a cute town called Wijnandsrade,   Google Translate gives me the idea that it means wine country.  On the south end of town is a castle Kasteel Wijnandsrade.  The castle is pretty cool.  On the grounds is a cafe Chateau Gilbert.  I was out too early in the morning to check out the cafe.

On Wednesday, I rode back to Kasteel Wijnandsrade and Chateau Gilbert for more recon.  The castle grounds are gorgeous with a castle, moat, several gate house, bronze statues, and ducks.  It is quite a find.  I have a feeling it will be a nice afternoon destination for Crystal and I to pedal to.

The castle appears to be a family agricultural products business selling locally produced wines, jams, and spices.  The cafe appears to use the local products in the menu and it has outdoor seating.  There was an older lady working the cafe/store.  She didn’t speak a drop of English.  (Note to self:  I have got to learn Dutch).  So I wasn’t able to communicate well. She resorted to speaking French to me.  Not sure why, but I smiled and ordered a coffee from her.  When it came, the coffee was great! more than espresso by volume but less than a cafe americano.  In previous travels to France from past experience I would call it a cafe creme.  Yum!   

For me this place is great.  It is a triple: bicycle destination, indoor/outdoor cafe with great coffee and on a castle grounds.

On Sunday I had both my GoPros on my Bike so I was able to get some good footage of the the castle and on Wednesday I brought my Canon EOS 60D to take pictures.

This is the video I cobbled together.  It is a little choppy because of the cobblestones (stabilization did a little of mitigation through iMovie:

The Bike Race

About a week ago, we received a letter from the local government.  The letter was a notification of road closures for a bicycle race.  That was the best I could do with my German skills reading Dutch.  Crystal and I went down to the local tourist office in Valkenburg to ask about the bike race.  We learned it was the UCI Road World Championships and that the time trials would be going through our town on Sunday 16 Sept.

The lady at the tourist office gave us a copy of the route map, thankfully it was in English and Dutch.

Sunday, Crystal and I decided it would be fun to go watch it.  I used the route map we got last week Imageto figure out that the bike path leading from our house intersects the course about a 1/2 mile outside of town.  We decided that we would go see the women race.  Neither of us ever having been to a race we were not sure what to expect.  We weren’t sure if the roads would be packed with spectators or what.  We even thought maybe that we would get out there and the racers  would come by and 15 seconds later its over.

We were presently surprised.  We later learned that it was the team time trials. About every four minutes a group of 4-6 women would pedal by with a police escort.  There were several vehicles following them with loud speakers.  While I couldn’t understand what they were saying it sound like a coach telling the women times and general motivation and directions.

The women were pedaling incredibly fast.  Image From where we could first see a team, they were upon us in seconds and gone.  Actually it was cool to watch.

Later I learned that on the Women’s Specialized team were two American women.  In fact the only two American women competing, Evelyn Stevens ad Amber Neben.  Both were also in the 2012 Olympics.  The Specialized team won the event with a time of 46 mm 31.63 ss with and average speed of 41.1 KM/H.  The course was 34.2 KM. Unfortunately they were the last team to go by so I did not get any pictures as I was trying the HD Video setting on my Canon Camera.   Instead I got about 10 seconds of the women flying by!



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.


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 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.


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