Three Go Dutch: The Trike Touring Tale of a Touring "Noob" - Part 2
Read Part 1
Left to Right, Danny Clarke, John Price, Paul Needham.
By Danny Clarke, AtomicZombie builders forum
Continued from Part 1
Onwards to Den Haag (The Hague)
We spent some time on the coastal route among the dunes, but eventually made it through and then began to head inland to the centre of town. While Holland has the most
wonderful bike-friendly transport network, when it gets into truly urban areas you have to be very wary of tram tracks which have a special liking and attractive power
where bike wheels are concerned. If you drop into a tram track, it can be a hard job to get the wheel back out again before a tram arrives.
We managed to make it into the heart of Den Haag without incident and as luck would have it we stopped for refreshments at a small bar a few metres from a street corner.
We were delighted to discover parades by all of the marching bands of the local scout troops. Police escorts halted traffic as each band passed through. John was quick
enough to film one of the bands as they passed. The video may be found here.
The promenade at Den Haag
From the urban centre, we made our way back out to the coast to pick up the main coastal LF bike route back to the Hook of Holland. At one point, we became a little lost and
it just so happened that John had a large-scale map of Den Haag to hand. We spread the map upon the ground and regained our bearings. Eventually (and without too much fuss),
we arrived at the coast and the Promenade area of Den Haag where we enjoyed a short break and an ice cream.
Back to Monster and the Mill
Having enjoyed our ice creams, we headed back to base camp via the mill at Monster. The day had become wonderfully warm and as all Zombies are well-aware, there is no better feeling
than zooming along in the sunshine on your own creation. When we arrived back at the mill, it was now open to visitors but as the millwright was not in attendance, the sails were
locked in a non-moving state. When we arrived, we parked our trikes and were given a guided tour of the entire mill (all floors).
I found it very interesting and informative. The one mill has sufficient gearing and power take-offs to grind four types of product at once. Some pictures and video footage of the mill
are shown below. The mill was built in 1802.
"The Mill at Monster"
From Monster, we made our way back towards our base camp at the Hook and then stopped at a little restaurant on the way home for refreshments and a meal.
The next morning, we awoke late and after a leisurely breakfast broke camp and packed our trailers ready to move on. Where were we headed? Well, in the general direction of Delft.
We hoped to find a suitable campsite when we got there. The weirdest part was mid-morning search for a coffee shop and everywhere being closed for Sunday. So, we invaded an
"old folks home" and were made very welcome in their cafeteria.
I cannot possibly convey the sheer delight of rolling along in the warm sunshine in the countryside with idyllic pastoral scenery and canals floating by.
As we made our way towards Delft along a lovely cycle route enjoying wonderful scenery, Paul (ever eager for a slice of apple cake ) spotted what appeared to be a small off-road eatery
on our left and on the other side of a canal and a road. We resolved to take the next exit from the cycle route, make our way onto the road and head back towards this Café.
Soon we were all seated at a table and eating some lunch and drinking cool beer.
The lady proprietor (having discovered we were English) delighted in telling us that her husband was a keen “Month-Python” fan. Sure enough, within a few minutes he was at our table
enquiring whether we wanted the 15 minute argument or the full half-hour. It was truly a surreal moment.
When we asked if they knew of any good camping sites outside of Delft they could not have been more helpful in giving us general directions and the name of a recommended site.
Soon we were back on the cycle route heading towards Delft.
Arriving at Delft
The weather was warm and the bikes all performed splendidly. It was not long before we found ourselves approaching Delft whereupon we took a wrong turn and managed to get ourselves
lost out in the boonies. We eventually resolved where we were and where we needed to be. But, we were recovering quite nicely when a minor disaster struck - a major city
improvement was underway and detours were in operation. At one critical juncture, the party found itself trapped in a road junction with the lights about to change and trucks,
cars and buses all around. Split second decisions seemed to be required and, unfortunately, the nature of “getting going” while in mixed traffic and in a convoy meant that we did
not all make the same decision with regard to direction and the party got split up.
John and I headed left and Paul had headed right. John and I headed for the first bit of “sanctuary” we could see and sat still and waited. Thankfully, Paul had his wits very much
about him and he managed to locate us after about a five or 10 minute interval. This was the only time on the whole trip that any disagreements were voiced.
Paul had indeed been “wronged” since he was in the lead and we “should” have followed him, but the exigencies of live traffic and the need for “personal safety” had overridden our
agreed leader/follower roles and agreement. That being said, it was all over in a flash, views were expressed, apologies earnestly made and accepted and the incident was quickly
We found a place to park our trikes and John and I volunteered to locate the VVV tourist info office for a more local set of directions. What a surprise we had! This was the weekend
of a big festival of arts in Delft and the central square and side streets were absolutely rammed full of people.
After a considerable delay in sweltering heat, we managed to locate the tourist office and were given directions to the camp site. Then, we fought our way back through the central
square and escaped down a side street and eventually made our way back to where Paul was patiently sitting in the sun enjoying an ice cream. The directions we had been given rang
some bells with Paul, and he quickly ascertained that the directions mentioned the only windmill in the vicinity of Delft and that he had seen this windmill as we approached our
parking places. Sorted! Finding our way to our next campsite was then very easy.
The Delft Campsite
We set up our tents and were well-established in no time at all, our (John’s and mine) batteries were on charge and Paul was refuelling with some more apple cakes. A quick trip to the
camp shop provided us with sufficient provisions and quality wines for our immediate needs. John and I discovered that Mirrcycle wing mirrors can be twisted around to make very
useful drinks trays while one is seated in a comfy mesh seat.
During our time at this site, we made good friends with our nearest neighbours (a lovely Dutch couple) and also their sisters- and brothers-in-law. Our Dutch friends found it hard to
comprehend that John, Paul and I were not actually long-term friends and that we had only met as a trio the previous Friday. Needless to say, wherever we stayed and wherever we went,
our trikes were very much attractors of attention. Many questions were asked and test rides taken.
The next day, we went back into Delft and the town square was like a ghost town compared to the intense crowding of the day before. Our arrival and our riding of our trikes round and
round in a circle caused many people to come over and stop to ask questions about our trikes: Where had we got them? Really! Homemade? Were they expensive to make? Could you make me one?
A Vietnamese gentleman seemed almost glued to John’s trike as he took a series of little rides around the town square. We sat in the sunshine of the square at “The William of Orange” café
and had a lunch. While we sat there the main church in the square chimed several times and it was amusing to us all that I kept failing to capture the sound in a movie clip because
I was not paying attention to the quarter hours that were passing. It seems that every town square has a church or a town hall and fancy chimes are an absolute must, with each town
trying to outdo the other for opulence and sheer chiming complexity.
Here is the church in the town square in Delft. As you can see, it is a fairly large brick-built affair.
At the other end of the square is the Town Hall. In the picture below, you can see John wearing his “Zombie Invasion” t-shirt. Many of the canals in the town have been blocked off and rendered
non-functioning as waterways and are instead used to exhibit floating works of art. This can be viewed at the following link.
John had been lamenting the fact that we had not encountered an open stall selling “Herring & Onions”, so he was delighted to encounter just such a thing in our wanderings around Delft. We wandered
around Delft for most of the day before returning to our campsite for our last night before heading south to the Islands. See John enjoying his
herring and onions.
When we returned we were virtually “adopted” by our Dutch friends and they took turns to take John’s trike for a spin around the campsite. We were treated to homemade cakes and drinks and we all
sat chatting until quite late (when etiquette then demands that one keep noise to a low level to allow others to sleep).
The next morning, we broke camp, loaded our trailers and headed south to a place called the Krab Flaat some 25Km away. This was reached by bike path and a modest-sized car ferry where due to our
trailers we were afforded the rights to mingle with cars on the car deck.
Once more, we were the subject of many, many questions from fellow travellers regarding our machines and our journey.
Once we disembarked on the south side of the crossing, we journeyed to our campsite via another of the excellent bike routes, crossing a major bridge over the water onto the island.
The Kraab Flaat campsite
This camping site was just a little odd in that the majority of the pitches were given over to “Holiday Homes” and since the school holidays were not in progress, the restaurant and bar were closed.
Only the washing, cleaning and camp shop were in operation. Having said this, I suspect that even the worst camp site in Holland would quite easily put the standard campsite in England to shame
(more on this later). So, we were given a pleasant pitch and very soon we had our tents erected, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. One feature of the location is that there are a good number
of huge wind turbines nearby and in the quiet of the night time, they very often attained a “beat-frequency” as various turbines drifted in and out of synch with one another. Another nocturnal
feature was the goodly number of freight trains arriving and leaving the major docks in the distance.
Our first dawn on the Kraab Flaat was a revelation in itself as a cockerel and a whole brood of hens were billeted on the other side of the wire fence at the back of our pitch in a little copse.
After breakfast, we ventured out of the camp site and made our way to the nearby town of Brielle. John and I took the direct route which encompassed a ride through tree lined avenues and the use
of a tiny little ferryboat that plied its trade direct between the campsites pier and the town of Brielle.
Paul opted for the “long-way-round” which involved a considerably longer journey that crossed the water by bridge some distance away and so we elected to meet up in Brielle to have lunch John and I
went through the town centre and found a little canal-side café to have a cup of coffee at, and while we were there, Paul called and then came over to find us. We all sat in the sunshine admiring
the local sites and then mounted up and rode into the centre of town for some lunch.
This was something of a “rinse and repeat” operation the next day when we went further afield to enjoy more of the countryside before returning back to camp at the end of the day.
Back to Jagveldt
It was time to head back to the Jagveldt campsite at the Hook for our last night and the sailing homeward on the Saturday. Paul had elected to carry on touring on his own, but John and I had
passage booked for the Saturday sailing so the three of us broke camp at the Kraab Flaat on the Friday morning and went our separate ways. John and I headed North back towards the Hook and the
Jagfeldt campsite and Paul headed off elsewhere.
Would you like "taco with nuts, Sir?"
John and I spent the majority of the day making a gentle slow journey back to the Hook and it was only marred by a minor mishap with my trike which caused me to buckle one of the front wheels.
We were forced to stop for a short while as we attempted to take as much of the taco out of the rim before continuing northwards. We arrived at Jagfeldt in good time and pitched camp in a rather
half-hearted fashion as we knew we would be packing up again in the morning.
We had a hearty meal at the Oasis Restaurant that evening and the next day we did all of our final packing for our journey to the ferry and our sailing home.
My overall impression of my first ever cycle tour
I think it is fair to say that the ultimate test of the success or failure of a trip such as this one is whether one would gladly undertake it ever again. From this perspective, I would have to say
that our trip was a great success as I would have no hesitation in repeating the experience. As a touring “noob” it was great to be introduced to it through the company of folks that had
previous experience. I think my total mileage for the week was a little over 140 miles, so we were not exactly “pushing hard” and it was not a torment or a trial or test of endurance.
What made it a success? This is harder to define because so many intangible but important things went together to make it such a pleasant and memorable experience.
Firstly, just consider for a moment. Three +60-year-old gents who have never travelled together (or indeed met in person as a trio before meeting for the first time at the departure car park)
can hit it off so darn well and have such a fabulous time together from the very start. That is something rare and special indeed. A camaraderie has been formed that will be an enduring one
I am sure.
Secondly, we were all riding in a foreign country on machines of our own creation which for me made every mile travelled a special event. Common sense and good manners ensured that we stayed
together and did our very best not to get separated (bar the once in a semi-emergency). We all travelled at the pace that was comfortable to the slowest rider each day.
Thirdly, for John and I we proved the viability of e-assist for cycle touring and how it opens up a whole world of possibilities for people who have a desire for travel and adventure that may
exceed their physical endurance if un-assisted. None of us are getting any younger, I fear.
Anyway, that was my impression of our trip, if you have not fallen asleep reading and viewing the clips and think it is something you might like to do, all I can say is, “Do it!” Have the experience;
it is a lot easier than you might think, especially with the right company.
Oh, and Dutch Camp-Sites vs. English ones? There's no contest. The Dutch make the English facilities look dirty, dishevelled and dilapidated by comparison. The Dutch facilities are no more expensive
than the English ones per-person and they don’t treat you like a cash cow to be milked while supplying the barest minimum to get away with it.