Day Seven: Den Oever to Leeuwarden: Year 7: 1974 - Grampies Go 50 for 50 - CycleBlaze

September 27, 2017

Day Seven: Den Oever to Leeuwarden: Year 7: 1974

This was a heady time for me at work, as a team of young professionals worked to develop the Mincome Project. It was the largest social science experiment ever (or since) in Canada, designed to assess the possible impact of a universal guaranteed annual income.

Meanwhile Herman the VW bug bled oil all over a Winnipeg street one wintry day, and the dealer declared him dead. The replacement was a VW Van, one of a string we have owned even up to today. The van then was our getaway vehicle for camping in the Rockies. In later years we would add chores like carrying pigs and calfs to and from auction!

Peyto Lake is a jewel in the Canadian Rockies. A trip to the rockies is a mammoth adventure!
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The Rockies was a very important place for us, so naturally a song like John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" struck a chord. Coincidentally we too were in our "27th Year":

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We anticipated a tough day today because it would start with crossing the Afsluitdijk and would then continue quite far, over to Leeuwarden. The Afsluitdijk is a bit of a boogey man for us, just based on warnings we once read in some guide books. They said if the wind is blowing, forget it.

So today came with a brisk headwind and a heavy fog. But hey, no rain! Warnings of course will not deter the Grampies, but we did put on lots of extra layers and our rain coats for good measure.

Our other ploy was to plan an early departure. The hotel lady had said the breakfast room would be always unlocked, and we could make our own breakfast from materials she showed us in the fridge. But when we showed up at 6:30 ready to go, the room was locked. How frustrating. We phoned the posted after hours number but only got a message machine. So in the end we only set off at 8:30.

The fog at Den Oever this morning.
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While the head wind was a bit draining, it was not like we were somehow out in the middle of the ocean (actually, the Waddensee) in a gale. It was fine, and our extra layers easily handled the starting temperature, which was 11 degrees.

Even though we like and even search out canal rides which can be flat and boring, dike rides are guaranteed flat and with nothing but a dike to look at. 30 km of 100% exactly the same view can get you hallucinating.

Actually, as time went by the fog lifted a little, and our view could include a little of the water rather than just the path.

Dike riding
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1/4 of the way along there is a monument for Cornelius Lely, the minister of transport who pushed through the dike project. Construction was in the 1920's. Now a new project is in the works to raise and strengthen the dike. They did not say if this was due to global warming or just to the fact that the dike is coming up to 100 years old. The updates will include more powerful pumps. The new system will have a capacity that could empty 10-12 Olympic sized swimming pools in one minute!

The statue of Lely looks out over what he achieved. Right now, it sees nothing!
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The dike upgrade story.
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Toward the end of the dike there is a restaurant at which we took a break. We were now out of Holland and in to Friesland. We noticed in the restaurant that none of the staff spoke English, and neither was there any English in the signs or menus. We thought nothing of it, and certainly a very nice lady soon guided us through the town of Harlingen, speaking English normally.

Picturesque sheep on the dike.
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Dutch sheep viewed closely are not really very handsome.
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The view from the dike top.
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The harbour at Harlingen
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A house in Franeker
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This couple had a side by side tandem. "Her on the right" was not pedalling!
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But just beyond the town of Franeker we ran into a perplexing situation. Two bits of bike path were merging and on the other bit were nine teenagers, about 15-16 year olds. They were riding four abreast, two deep. As Dodie tried to merge in with them, one boy started to berate her. He went on and on shouting in Dutch. Of course Dodie had no idea what his problem was. I came up onto the scene and interjected myself between them - the phalanx of riders still moving along the path. So the boy took to berating me. I took to countering him in English, asking if he had ever learned any English in school, and if not, why not.

I looked around at the 8 companions and asked one girl what the boy was saying. I rather expected that among the 8 there would be at least one with some manners and/or who had ever done their English homework. The one girl must have known some English, for she replied "Suck dick". I am not sure if this was her translation of the boy's presentation, or her own contribution.

You might think that at this point we should have put some distance between us and the pack of kids, but actually it was a bit of a swarming situation, though with all still pedalling forward.

Dodie then stopped an oncoming adult and asked him to tell these kids in Dutch to back off and go away. The adult took to questioning the pack leader. While this was going on we had all stopped, effectively blocking the path. A couple of about our age then came along the path, and expressed a lot of anger and frustration that the path was blocked. That two tourists were being given a hassle did not figure into their reaction.

With our first adult still interrogating the kids we continued on our path. But after some minutes the kids caught up with us, still crowding us. We again told them off and to be on their way, and stopped to give them a chance to do that. They did eventually move off, tossing empty drink bottles behind them, into the bushes and/or toward us.

Naturally this incident gave us pause for thought. Are Friesland people insular, with poor knowledge of English compared to other Dutch, and are they averse to foreigners, including tourists? That is, were the kids channelling some part of the larger society? Or, had we only encountered a group of hooligans, kids from their school's back row seats, who had no manners or consideration - just as there were undoubtedly similar groups in every other country? Either way, it was jarring, because we had developed such a high regard for everything Dutch.

We asked the desk clerk at our next hotel, in Leeuwarden, about it. She did allow that English might be less spoken in Friesland, but she said all kids would be studying it in school. The kids we met sounded like an aberration to her.

The unruly kids.
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After the kids and before Leeuwarden, the society had continued to show us its stellar side. Lots of people, including kids, greeted us nicely on the path. And the citizens quietly and sedately going about their business on their upright bikes through town seemed extremely peaceful. The lovely architecture, neat farms and healthy sheep and cows were all as they should be. We soon mostly calmed back down.

From a distance we thought we saw that Leeuwarden had some modern office or apartment towers, and maybe they do, but the old town was as expected with many cute doll's house style buildings. Just as with Alkmaar, the old town is surrounded by a canal, so it seems easy to get a grip on. We did not take time to really look at it as we were eager to find our hotel and rest. The t'Anker is very basic, with bathroom down the hall, no TV, low room lighting, and cot like beds. All of that, except for the lighting, is fine with us. We are pleased about crossing the dike one more time, and tomorrow will be ready to head further south.

Look Melissa - Dutch rabbits
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This roof ornament is characteristic of Friesland
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Part house, part barn
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In Leeeuwarden. Although this looks intimidating there was excellent signage to guide us around the roadworks.
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Today's ride: 71 km (44 miles)
Total: 260 km (161 miles)

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