Day 2: Hoek van Holland to Arnhem

 The Stats:

  • Distance: 189km
  • Average Speed:
  • Legs: 😐
  • Undercarriage: ☹️
  • Bike: 🙂
I was woken at 4:30am by an announcement on the ship’s tannoy.  A lugubrious Liverpudlian explained that it was 4:30am, we would be docking in two hours and thirty minutes and breakfast was being served.

I rushed down to the breakfast buffet and paid my €15 to stuff my face.  I was surrounded by a group of about 50 tiny Spanish teenaged girls who were picking at some fruit salad.  They looked on in horror as the shattered long-distance-cyclist stuffed bacon rolls and black coffee into his food-hole.
Breakfast of Champions


I packed up the kidney-bean-of-despair and got the bike ready to go.  I literally rolled off the ship first, had a 30 second wait at passport control and I was off.  After some slightly undignified faffing about in the car park, I found the start of the EuroVelo Route 2 and I was off.  

Almost immediately I joined a special cycle path and for the next 189 km, I was rarely off them.  The cycling infrastructure in Holland is just astonishingly good.  Bikes have right-of-way almost everywhere and, if the road is painted red, then bikes have priority.  Roundabouts have special bike lanes.  On narrow lanes next to canals or rivers, they paint two wide bike lanes down each side and the cars have to fight it out over one lane in the middle.


I’d like to comment on Dutch driving but, to be honest, I hardly saw any of it.

Last view of the sea

The route runs up the coast towards Den Haag.  The bike path runs through the coastal dunes and reminded me of the Northumbrian coastline.  Lots of people were out on their bikes, running on the beach, walking their dogs and prepping for picnics.  To be honest, it was pretty chilly at 8:30am but that was going to change.  Oh yes.

The EV2 route is called the “Capitals Route” and therefore the northward deviation was fully on brand.  I don’t really know anything about Den Haag apart from what I’ve seen in the dramatic ending to The Hitman’s Bodyguard.  Since Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman weren’t blowing things up and shooting people, Den Haag seemed quiet.  I was through it pretty quickly and back out into the countryside.

It is fair to say that Holland is the neatest place I have ever been.  The farms are neat and tidy.  All the fences are straight and new.  All the fields are tilled or sown with almost geometric precision.  There’s none of that “let’s put a rusty lorry in the field” or big piles of poo.  Farming in Holland also seems to focus on very high productivity and very high value.  Near Hoek van Holland and Den Haag, there are greenhouses as far as the eye can see.  All new, all well maintained.  Inland even tiny pockets of land are maintained and used for something.  I saw a small field (maybe 1/10th of hectare) with four llamas on it.


 As the route pushed eastwards, it was primarily along the banks of canals and rivers.  Holland is densely populated so there are a lot of houses and every single one of them was fantastically maintained.  I didn’t see a single badly maintained house and the gardens were all perfect.  Each house had a huge spray of blooms, a manicured lawn and some neatly trimmed bushes.  I don’t just mean “a lot of them” or “most of them”, I mean “all of them”.  Even houses in more modest areas were neat, tidy and have a lovely garden.

Finally on the “neatness” thing, I had noticed that the roads and verges were pretty clean around about Utrecht, I thought I would start counting the roadside trash I saw.  In 100km I saw one fag packet and two coke cans.  In 100km!  In both the UK and Mallorca where I am most familiar with the roadside littering, you’d see half a dozen fag packets, a McDonalds carton and 10 beer cans every 5km…

Den Haag to Utrecht was pretty good.  The temperature got higher.  I saw my first windmill.

They do have windmills in Holland

And I saw my first indoor ski park on stilts.

Actually, that’s a lie.  I’ve seen the one in Tokyo.

As the afternoon progressed, it got a lot hotter and I started to suffer.  The faceless bureaucrats planning the EV2 route seemed to delight making the route more wiggly than it had to be. “You’re on your way to Arnhem sir?  Why not take a detour through these hilly woods on gravel trails?  They’re lovely”…

Around 130km, I had foolishly run out of water and was feeling a bit the worse for wear.  The problem with scenic bike trails is that they avoid the towns and hence avoid the shops which sell liquids to an increasingly delirious long-distance cyclist.  My average speed was getting slower and slower and the dreaded “pottering” was taking over.  

Suddenly, in the middle of a wooded track, I came across two young Dutch girls selling cakes and cans of coke.  Luckily, their English was better than my non-existent Dutch -- it was probably better than my English to be honest.  I bought two cans of coke and two cakes.  It came to €3.15 so I gave then €10 and told them to keep the change for saving my life.  Well, not saving my life but stopping me getting into an even bigger mess. 
These girls saved my life.

As I got increasingly delirious, I started to obsess about how tall the Dutch are. I have always known that the Dutch are the tallest nation on Earth but it just started to weigh on my mind.  As my speed dropped further, I would be passed by beautiful tall, leggy and bronzed men and women on their sit up and beg bikes.  I would look over the canal and there were four tall, bronzed, older men playing padel.  I’d cycle past a tall beautiful women tending her lawn.  They were everywhere.  When the younger and serious racing-cyclists whizzed past me on their high-end carbon bikes they would look like Lycra-clad stick insects on the largest possible frames.

This came to a head when I stopped at a set of lights.  I was still 35k from Arnhem and I was sweaty and tired.  With a swish and a skid, a vision of loveliness arrived at the lights and asked me where I was going. She told me that I should take a short cut and would be able to cut it down to 25k.  Not wishing to blub with gratitude, I pulled away from the lights and fell into the gutter.  It was an ignominious end.

The final 25k went slowly.  Especially slowly since the vision of loveliness hadn’t explained that there were some rolling hills on the short route.  Admittedly only 3% but after you’ve spent most of the day with the incline indicator pegged at 0%, these came as a shock.  The Garmin told me that I was going through NudePark which promised a lot but seriously underdelivered.
It is an industrial park…

I rolled down into Arnhem and using a bastardised combination of Garmin and GoogleMaps I found the hotel.  The Ibis Styles in Arnhem is one of those hotels which is stamped out of a mould somewhere and then shipped to Holland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.  Soulless but I couldn’t really complain.  Except when the receptionist explained that I couldn’t take my bike to the room and it had to be left in an unlocked courtyard round the back.  When I mumbled something about Ibis taking responsibility for the loss, the receptionist guffawed in my face.

One shower later I felt a little more human.  I washed my kit — which was still wet at 10:30pm…. There has definitely been some…er…undercarriage damage today.  I’ve applied SudoCreme to the affected area on the basis that SudoCreme worked wonders on the kids’ nappy-rash.  I hope it works and that my kit dries by tomorrow.

After a bit of a wander round the (unsurprisingly) spotless downtown area of Arnhem, I met Gideon for dinner.  He had booked a fantastic Italian restaurant and, burning 3000+ calories a day meant that I could lay waste to both the pasta menu and the desert menu.
I’m the one smeared with pasta sauce and the second giant beer.

Tomorrow is supposed to be Münster.  It’s another 200k and I’m not sure if I’ve got another 200k in my legs especially since it’s not nearly as flat as today’s stage.  We shall see.  I might be able to cut the distance down by ignoring the EV2 at strategic points.

Here is the strava segment for you obsessives.






Comments

  1. Another brilliant blog, takes me back to the 7 very happy years that I lived in Holland, wonderful people.

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