written Monday 29 December 2003
|Bike: Enkhuizen to Den Helder|
FLASH: this is a delayed account of a long ride of 9 November. For now, a reminder of the newly updated map HERE (105 kB). Today's trip: along the north Zuider Zee (Ijsselmeer), north out of Enkhuizen.
I had promised myself to revisit Enkhuizen--I just didn't know it would be the very next morning. Yes, I was away only 16 hours. It's irresistable. Pictured is a typical canal near the village center.
The fog cleared just a few minutes after I hauled the bike off the train, inviting a revisit of the old harbor, which seems impossibly small for what was at one time one of the world's great harbors. The headquarters of the Dutch East India company's begin but a few meters beyond. This must have been one busy place.
Enkhuizen. I do love it. Who knows when I'll get back to this wonderful little town? But I rode out, northbound.
The ride north out of Enkhuizen was perfect: the bike path high on a dike, light wind to my back, the blue Zuider Zee to the right, and to the left an occasional village below sea level. Air on the face cold, but the bright sun promising warmth. This particular, precariously situated village bears the most ominous name: Onderdijk.
Up the coast an hour's ride was Medemblik, whose ancient waterways have been extended to very long, wide, linked harbors crowded with hundreds of boats. Here, one old-style shallow-water sailboat cruises past Medemblik's castle, out to the Zuider Zee.
Looking northward from Medeblik's Zuider Zee coast, the faintest dark on the horizon is the Afsluitdijk, the long, beefy dike blocking all of what was the Zuider Zee (now the Ijsselmeer) from the North Sea and beyond. If you look at the bike map, this is the highway running northeast-southwest, straight across the water. It runs from...well, roughtly from nowhere to nowhere, which makes it challenging for cyclists, since no train station lies at either end, making for a very long day. I'll try it, but not before April or so.
The ride north out of Medemblik was dreadful--heavy traffic, narrow road with no shoulders, and large trucks aimed with American-style hostility to cyclists. In desperation, I gave up on the highway and cut through a forest. Big Mistake. Every hiker in the Netherlands was hiking through several centimeters of mud, and in tricky-to avoid, far-from-straight paths. I was reduced to sustaining my own balance in first gear while straining not to just run down all the hikers...which strictly speaking I had the right to do--the mud was clearly marked a fietspad. Hey, I won't apologize: in the Netherlands, they who live by the Code of Bicycle Domination risk death by it.
After which my bike tires slung mud for 10 km. I cruised through Den Oevre and a km away from the coast, the sun just scraping across the horizon for hours, and through a series of rather forgettable villages around this tip of North Holland. Finally, a few km along the big water, away from traffic. Away from everything, and a nice time enough to savor things--like the pictured--that do better in the scarce Dutch places without people.
Just when I get tired and afternoon-cranky enough to want only a convenient train ride home...THIS happens. I can't imagine ever tiring of looking at the Netherlands.
And I made Den Helder. A long ride. A good day.
One weird last note. Look. Dutch sheep all sport these weird blotches of bright color, right on their wooly butts. What's the deal?...losers in secret paintball tournament?
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