Total mileage on day 2 is 258.7 Its grey, almost frighteningly wet and grey with rain and water all around as we approach Holland. I seem to get a free breakfast by ditheringly answering ‘yes’ when asked at the counter whether I was ‘with the biker’s group’. They meant was I one of the 72 cyclists who for an inexplicable reason are also on this boat. For some reason my bike takes ages to start and I feel a mixture of physical anxiety and mental assurance that I have cover for almost any occurrence. I drive down the ramp and queue up to show my passport, then its on to unassuming roads out of the town and onto the network of motorways that is Holland. Its dry thankfully but the sky is very grey. I’ve set the address of my first night’s hotel into the GPS and am happy to be told how to get there – at least for now. There is not a huge amount of traffic and various smells, most of them agricultural. Eventually, a couple of hours later, it starts to rain and I find that by tipping my head sideways I can encourage the raindrops to run off my visor but when it starts to pour I realise I can’t see a thing and rather desperately pull onto the hard shoulder and start the bike’s hazard lights. I fish into my luggage to pull out the rainsuit I bought but I am really dithering here in the hope that the rain will ease off. I can’t work out why I couldn’t see. With this ballooning suit on it seems to take longer to accelerate. I note that I’ve got 2002 miles from a tank (no that was meant to be 202). Once I get to the end of the motorways of Holland, near Aachen, I start to disobey my GPS seeing the name of a town I recognise from the map and so opting for nicer routes.
Unfortunately, as I reflect later, this is not a clever option. The thing with GPS is either to do exactly what it says or not use it at all. Taking my own route and expecting it to know what I want to do is hopeless and I wasted so much time and energy literally going round in circles and taking useless detours as my downloaded route told me after I got home. I finally arrive at the hotel Kylburg at about 4.30 after driving off the boat at 8am and swing the bike into the garage underneath - along with some company of bikes with no riders.
I am exhausted. Interestingly its my hands are forearms that are tired and twitching but not my back which is real tribute to the bike. After 4 ½ hours sleep I rode for nearly 8 hours. This isn’t a formula I want to repeat and luckily I won’t have to.
I shower – the realisation that there is no soap in this cheap hotel does not put me in a good mood with the place (maybe they just forgot it). I lie down flat on my back and fall asleep. There is something mysteriously staid and artificial about this so-called ‘bikers’ hotel: plenty of artificial plants about 9 inches tall with wooden ladybirds attached, a significant lack of motorbikes and leathers, a lack of the rock and roll on the juke box that the website says they (the bikers) ‘like to hear’. Instead are a quiet collection of silver-haired hesitant guests who wear money belts and walk with their hands behind their backs. Everyone else is part of middle aged couples.
Today’s riding, on reflection, had a number of phases. 1: a relaxed early time when the GPS guided me nicely on motorways from Hook of Holland across the Netherlands 2; a crisis when it poured and I couldn’t see anything and rode on in my cumbersome suit getting aware that I was rather tired. 3: the nicer roads in Germany when I started my helmet World War II conversations with imaginary friend Douglas – modelled on legless Douglas Bader of course, barking at him to ‘drop a cog, Douglas’ where appropriate (oh dear). 4: Getting tired and frustrated with the GPS leading me around in circles when I tried to combine its route with my own ideas.
After walking round the town, I opt for dinner here not feeling up to a lonely evening in the town’s only other eating establishment. It could be a school dinner; a passing chicken curry but served not only with rice but with boiled potatoes and peas and carrots. For pudding there is, believe it or not, Arctic Roll. We can help ourselves to beers from the fridge at least.
Looking out from my balcony in this town built into the sides of a steep valley, later in the evening, I see houses and gardens ranged up the steep side of the hill opposite, topless fat men and fat housewives standing with their fists on their hips – as my step grandmother used to do in her blue nylon housecoat. My disappointment about the hotel fuels a distaste with this complacent small town as a whole. Having lost my novel earlier my book on psychoanalysis and Houdini does not lighten my mood.
On to day three Click here