21 06 2007

June 5th, 2007

Gerry & I set off for Maastricht at the crack of dawn(ish), enjoying the fine weather and lack of traffic. We stopped for a bit of breakfast at a cafe, then shortly afterwards I managed to surprise a house by riding too close:


Not long after, I noticed an odd-looking bike in the window of a shop as we rode past, and went back for a better look. It turned out to be quite a unique bicycle shop – ‘No Ordinary Bike Shop’ by name, and indeed it wasn’t. The shop was full of amazing custom choppers and cruisers, and the guy in charge was extremely friendly, knowledgable and talkative. He builds the frames himself out of aluminium, and does the design work in collaboration with his clients. Customers all over the world were on the waiting list – I urge you to check out the website:


He wound up offering Gerry & I a ride on his latest creation – a beast of a chopper:



Quite a ride – long and low, and a lot of fun! Great bikes, though I didn’t *quite* manage to convince myself to trade-in the Thorn for one – I couldn’t really see myself getting up the Swiss Alps on one of these babies…


A Partner in Crime

20 06 2007

June 4th, 2007

Today I was joined on this epic foolishness by my friend Gerry, who flew into Amsterdam from Singapore a couple of days earlier. We’d arranged the time and place well in advance (thanks Google Maps), and we both managed to find the place – Boxmeer train station – at more-or-less the agreed time. I had quite a frustrating time trying to find a sane route to the station – every time I got onto a decent road leading to Boxmeer, I was foiled by a sign declaring ‘No Bicycles’ – I wound up having to snake my way through dozens of suburban developments (and use a ferry-crossing) in a very round-about way, finally arriving at the station about 30 minutes late. Thankfully Gerry had similar issues, so we both arrived within five minutes of each other. My love affair with Holland’s cycling paths having soured considerably, we were happy to be on our way.


When we decided to call it quits for the day, we found ourselves a campsite at the very aptly named “Camping de Weerd”, then headed into town. We found a beautiful big church – in front of which was a travelling carnival in full swing:


Lots of noise booming out of the various rides and attractions, with the loudest by far being the mighty ‘Body Shake’, parked right in front of the restaurant area – guaranteeing a chat-free mealtime. We couldn’t help noticing that the painted couple featured on the ‘art’ for the ride were more than a little busy:


Ahh, the Dutch – you’ve got to love them. They sure do.


20 06 2007

June 3rd, 2007

Jumping back to chronological order – We (Simon, Debbie & I) decided to leave the bikes at home today, and catch a train to Amsterdam for a bit of sightseeing.

Shortly after arriving, Simon and I opted for a little ‘mystery treat’ – some species of fried thing we extracted from a wall of mini-ovens in the train station. It tasted pretty good actually, but I’d really rather not know what it was…


What a city! SOOOO many bikes, I really just couldn’t quite believe it – they’re literally locked to every available inch of the endless canal railings, as far as you can see in any direction. Absolute bicycle nirvana – though I will say the bikes themselves are not the kind of bikes I’m really familiar with. Dutch bikes are an interesting breed – a bit like the Japanese ‘mama-chari’ (domestic bike), but with different DNA, and some very strange personalities. And all of them had enormously heavy chain locks and D-locks that must have been more valuable than the bikes themselves – an unfortunate necessity in this city. How anyone ever finds their ride amongst the chaotic mass is beyond me, though the colourful customizations may be of some help…


This is Amsterdam station ‘bike rack’. Yes, really.


Useful for getting mates home after a hard day’s night:


Lunch and more…


Sorry Dave – didn’t buy.


Amsterdam has a lot of character, a lot of very crooked buildings, some rather interesting ‘coffee shops’, and for me, a huge amount of charm. Not one normal person to be spotted anywhere – I’m definitely coming back some day, when I have a little more time to explore and appreciate everything Amsterdam has to offer. Well, maybe not *everything*…

Ribe, and the Netherlands / Germany Border

19 06 2007

May 28th – 30th, 2007

I guess I got a little ahead of myself with the Nijmegen post – I had some very pleasant kilometers in the days leading up to the big overnight ride through Germany, so I’ll do a visual summary of them here:

One of the campsites – with a very interesting ‘Billiard Golf’ course:


This is Ribe (not Brandboring – I just liked the name). Ribe is the oldest city in Denmark, and a very charming place. The photos don’t do it justice…


The countryside from Ribe down to the border with Germany was amazing – all picture-postcard fields of cows, sheep and horses, with plenty of swans patrolling the waterways.


Thoughts from the road – Skype

19 06 2007

Skype rocks. I’ve been using it for at least a couple of years now with friends and family, and I have to say, it really is a ‘killer app’ – one of those examples of technology that actually delivers on the promises it makes, and then some. When video was added in v2.0, it really kicked into gear, and now I use it quite regularly to keep in touch with my family back in Australia, and friends around Tokyo. I’m hoping to use it fairly often on this trip to keep in touch with loved ones, and cut down on the mobile-phone bill on the 3G phone my boss gave me as a parting gift from D4C (Thanks again, Furumoto-san!).

Here’s a picture of me Skyping with Maki-chan from Denmark at 2:00am, as she tries to sell me something – a CD I think. Nice smile, Maki-chan! I’ll take three CD’s and a food processor.


Nijmegen, Holland

10 06 2007

June 3rd, 2007

I loved the cycling scene in Denmark, but I simply can’t believe the setup here in the Netherlands. SO many bikes – I’m told that everyone here has at least two bikes, and I’d certainly believe it. Simon has two, and Debbie has three – and currently considering another one! The things you can do when you actually have storage space…
Simon is an old mate of mine from Australia – an ex-colleague from my days of computer animation, an active Kubuntu Linux developer, and a very good lad. His lovely girly Debbie hails from Holland, and that’s where they’ve wound up after a few years of sharing an apartment in Melbourne, Australia. They bought a very nice place together in a newly developed ‘suburb’ (or satellite township, really) of Nijmegen, where I’ve had the great fortune to stay for the last couple of days. It’s a beautiful place, with lots of trees and open space, and cycling lanes galore to everywhere you’d want to go. I love it. I’ve also eaten more dairy products here than in the previous 12 months combined – they really go for it over here!

Nijmegen’s beautiful town square:

A bit of evening fun:

Aliens attacking Nijmegen (just showing off, if you ask me). Rather noisy also.

Coming soon… Amsterdam!

Witness the Fitness

10 06 2007

1st June, 2007

A killer ride today(s) – an overnight marathon to reach my friends Simon & Debbie in Nijmegen on schedule. I clocked 242 continuous km (almost) – not really a good idea, but quite an experience none the less. A perfect night for riding – cool but not cold, no wind and a clear sky, and I was feeling up to a big one.

Perhaps this post should be titled ‘Witness the Flatness’, because that’s what this part of the world is, thankfully. The thing about Germany (or Europe in general, it seems) is that pretty much everything shuts at about 5:30-6:00pm, and even camp grounds don’t really like to see you turn up beyond 8:00pm. I wanted to get across the Elbe river before calling it quits for the day, but I just missed the 8:45pm ferry, so I had to wait another hour for the next one. When I finally got to the far bank at 10:10pm (with plenty of daylight remaining), it was too late to find a campsite for the night, so I just kept pedaling.

Waiting for the ferry:

Under a blood-red moon I rode – the moon looked surprisingly similar to the sun that had set a few hours earlier – and the shallow valleys quickly filled with ghostly fog-banks. It was a little spooky, ploughing through the pink-hued mists at 2:00am somewhere in rural Germany, without a single streetlight to be seen (they even turn off all the lights in the towns at night), but quite exhilarating too. I loved it.

When the sun started to appear at 4:00am or so, I was still feeling pretty good, and my legs weren’t complaining. My stomach was, though – I really needed some more fuel, I’d eaten my entire 10-pack of choc-banana muesli bars, and the grumbling was becoming serious. I finally found a 24-hour service station (they actually have one in Germany!) at about 5:30am, and ate a bizarre cocktail of nasty treats, with a few sports drinks and a hot coffee to wash it down.

I then discovered that I’d over-run the extents of the maps I had on my little GPS, so I took an hour break on the steps of the local sports hall, enjoying the sunrise while transferring the new maps from my notebook PC. A serious mistake – my legs and rear had quite gotten used to the idea that we were done for the day after sitting on the steps for a bit, and they were very reluctant indeed to perform an encore. A few stern words and a bit of self-massage, and they finally agreed to play ball. Softball. But it was all worth it in the end – a very pleasant weekend with my great mates Simon & Debbie in Nijmegen, Holland. More about that soon…

Random Thoughts from the Road – Deer

10 06 2007

Deer have incredible reflexes. Unfortunately, their escape strategies need a bit of work. So do their basic levels of attention. I surprised the stuffing out of one poor specimen in Denmark by simply riding towards it while it munched on something at the side of the bike path. It must have seem me at least 100m before I got anywhere near it, but it suddenly decided I was real at a range of about 1 metre, and promptly lunged directly in front of me. Fortunately I had anticipated this logic and started swerving good and early, cursing fluently. Silly deer.

Time flies…

10 06 2007

Hi everyone – sorry for the poor update frequency on this blog, it’s turning out to be a little more difficult than I’d hoped to get the time and opportunity to get on the Internet for long enough to take care of things…

Gerry & I are now in Mainz, Germany, and have covered quite a lot of ground in a short time. I’ll try to clear the back-log of posts I’ve half-typed in the few spare moments I’ve had. Keep reading:


4 06 2007

On May 27th, I went to Legoland! A life-long dream, realized – and a fine dream it was. I set out from my campsite in Esbjerg mid-morning on May 26th, enjoying a fine (though windy) day of riding to the NE, fueled by half a pack of chocolate-chip cookies, a litre of chocolate milk, and 1.5 litres of apple juice (!). Yes, I drank it all before riding – which proved to be a mistake – but I couldn’t manage carrying half-empty cartons of beverages, or justify throwing them away. Thankfully there are plenty of trees between Esbjerg and Billund.
I didn’t quite make it to Billund before dark – pulled into my new campsite in Grindsted at about 9:30pm (late as always) and was granted a site next to the amenities block, where I quickly pitched tent and headed for the shower. Not the most satisfying shower, however – extremely cramped and coin operated, and after inserting my 5-Eurocent coin, I discovered that the lights were not part of the coin-operated deal as I’d thought – they were broken. I also discovered that I had exactly 3:47 remaining to get my clothes off and under the water, in a pitch-black broom cupboard, and get clean. I’m not known for my speedy strip-shows (yet), but I made it, and I even found the soap.
The next day I was up early and on the bike to Billund (about 20km). I arrived at the park under a blustery grey sky, and promptly celebrated by eating a block of marzipan (my second-favorite fuel, next to ice-cream). Locked the bike, bought my ticket, and I was in LEGOLAND!

As a child and young teen, I was the world’s #1 fan of Lego, and I still believe it is the most excellent toy known to man. There may be a few too many ‘special parts’ these days (such as entire jumbo-jet wings as a single piece) but I love the stuff absolutely, and I can’t really express how happy I was to be there. I didn’t *quite* wet myself with excitement, but I may have squealed and giggled a bit…
I headed straight for the buffet lunch restaurant and ate myself silly again, and then it was down to business:



‘Typical Japanese scene’:




Lots of cyclists in Legoland:


Some less skilled than others, apparently. Very disturbing.


Lots of amazing creations:





And if your cat ever swallows a critical piece, this is the place to go:


Yes – parts in bulk! In non-standard colors, even!

Despite the pitiful weather, I absolutely loved every minute of it, and I can only hope to return some day. Billund actually has an airport, so you can fly directly there, I believe. Do it!