Cheryl Smith's sabbatical 2011 travel blog

Loek teaches us to eat Herring as the Dutch do!

the tourist shot from Bruinisse

Wednesday, June, 1st is one we’ll long remember as our most challenging day on the bikes. Up until now our pace of riding has been comfortable and the distances fairly easy—about 50km/day. We seemed to stop at exactly the right moment when my body was ready for a rest. The pace was perfect for me. All that changed today after lunch. Oh my, did it ever change.

We rode into the wind, pedaled faster and harder then ever and didn’t stop to rest often enough. It was the first day I was out of breath while riding. It was the first day my poor thighs screamed at me to stop! And now! It was the first time we had a wide gap between the front and back riders. It was the first time I wondered if I could do it. Clearly the warm up was finished and the real biking began – we graduated to the big kids school of bike touring.

It was the longest day. It was the day with the most hills. It was the windiest day. I now appreciate the Irish expression about the wind always at your back. It’s bloody hard to pedal into gale force winds (the captain called them moderate, but he wasn’t sitting on my bicycle) going uphill towards a towering bridge. It was the day Bob started pedaling before unlocking his bike and knocked the valve off his tire that immediately went flat. Several men leaped into action and made a temporary repair. It was about 20 minutes of temporary -- however the second repair lasted the rest of the day. And if all that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, Brenda lost focus when the group stopped and fell off her bike into the thorn bushes. See, I told you it was memorable.

The day started with a sail down the river from Dordrecht to Willemstad which meant a later start on the pedals. Loek shared a bit of interesting history of the city and we poked around quite a bit before heading off. You’ll see in one of the videos I made we were at a windmill-come-family home that was charming. All of that lulled us into thinking it was going to be another pleasant day on the road.

We rode along some magnificent pathways leading to the almighty bridge near Phillipsdam. It was a long and windy ride (but perhaps dear reader you’ve got that point already.) At the top of the bridge we stopped for traffic and the grey haired man standing in front of me (not with our group) let out a mighty spray of flatulence without turning to acknowledge. Didn’t think much of that.

After puffing and panting for what seemed like forever, we arrived in a seaside village called Bruinisse for coffee break. Here we had our picture taken inside the giant sized clam – you have to do it! And Loek was promoting the local specialty of herring – he held his in the air and ate it one bite. Others had pickled herring, muscles, calamari – the Smiths had French fries (what can I say?)

Once we left Bruinisse is was more head wind, hills and endless riding. We were all focused, heads down, peddling hard to get the kilometers behind us and dreaming of seeing the Elodie in front of us. We’ve been spoiled by 4 o’clock finishes, but not today, we were closer to 6pm when we found our floating home in the canal in Zierikzee. Beer came before showers – you understand I’m sure.

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