Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. The unexpected happens occasionally in our everyday routines, and always on a bike tour!
So when we set out last weekend to bike tour along as much as we could of Stage 1 of the 2010 Tour de France, we should have known our tour would look nothing like this map of the Tour de France route.
We were barely out the door when our route changed. We could have cycled to the official start of the Tour de France, in Rotterdam, but those racing cyclists don’t always take the nicest routes. Far better to ride along the dunes just north of The Hague. The sandy beaches run all the way to Hook of Holland (where many ferries arrive from England), and so do the traffic-free bike paths. In the summer, it can also be very bright. Sunscreen is still required in the evening, as you can see from these photos.
So far, so good. We hopped on a ferry across the channel of water that leads from the North Sea to Rotterdam, and paid the princely sum of €1.15 for our cruise. Entertainment on deck was provided by taking close-up photos of our bike, against the stunningly aqua paint job of the ferry. Could this photo be in a modern art museum somewhere? It’s a little odd and out of focus, but we like it.
From here on in though, our plans quickly went sideways. Oh, we found the campground and squeezed ourselves in between the hordes of people out for a weekend. We even had a nice meal before toddling off to bed. But then, at 2am, Friedel felt sick. That get-me-out-of-the-tent now sort of urgent sickness. Happily Andrew was there (and awake!) to get the door open quickly. The next morning, the tummy bug had done enough work to put Friedel off coffee and most food. Now, the tour was going to look a little different.
Slower and shorter became the name of the game. We pedaled at a gentle 12km an hour and we stopped regularly for breaks. Lots of them. We took photos of this bike, covered in flowers, with a tulip-themed back basket.
And of this pub, decked out for the final between Holland and Spain in the World Cup. Can you fit another strip of flags in anywhere?
And we stopped to chat with the local horses. This one tried to eat Andrew’s handlebar bag.
Our slow pace wasn’t getting us far along the Tour de France route, but it did lead us into the path of these two Belgian guys, out on a 10-day bike tour. We chatted for a good 20 minutes, admiring their go-for-it attitude and the way they’d set out on a tour just using normal bikes (quite heavy ones at that!), saddlebags that are normally for commuting in town and a kid’s bike trailer, re-purposed to carry cargo. More proof that you can tour with just about any setup you can hack together in your backyard.
We liked this set-up so much, that we made a plan to find a kids trailer and do the same. We were inspired!
And that’s the nice thing about the not-quite-as-planned tour. Whether the plans go wrong because you got sick, lost or just wanted to do something different, the change of plans doesn’t stop the trip from being any less interesting. Sometimes, the tour might even be better because of the new plans.
We carried on slowly, stopping to admire the fields, the geese, the flowers and the abandoned bicycles in front of nearly every home.
And our way home, we discovered another great ferry that wasn’t on our original route. We couldn’t believe how many racing cyclists were on it! It might not have been the Tour de France, but it felt like we were in the middle of a peleton as the cyclists rushed off the boat.
Going the other way was a bit more lonely. We didn’t mind.
They say to save the best for last, and perhaps the best part of our unplanned weekend and our unplanned route came when we arrived in the small town of Schipluiden, and discovered a tea garden. Under the shade of some trees, in a narrow garden, we ate this: a wonderful plate of pancakes, ice cream and rose jelly!
Now just 20km from home, we toddled off towards the luxury of a bed and a shower. And we made plans to do the Tour de France route another weekend. Maybe next time it will go as planned…