“Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.”
Albert Einstein W. B. Yeats.
And so it was with these wise words from my fellow Celtic brother William Butler Yeats that we set off in the morning of the 21st of June to catch our train to Schagen with my trusty yellow bike neatly folded and packed beside our seat. As the bakfiets only had one seat and there was no way that Jacob was going to cycle me in the front all the way back to Utrecht (much to my disappointment), we had decided to bring along our yellow pal so that we could take it in turns cycling the two bikes on the way home.
When we arrived in Schagen we were collected at the train station by the lovely couple who sold us the bike. As they had told us on the phone the previous night that they lived a bit of a distance from the station and that we mightn’t find their house easily, they had decided that it would be better to just drive us to their home instead. While I personally thought that this was a bit dodgy, Jacob had assured me that the couple were simply very nice people; however, we had no idea that when they had said that they lived far from the station, they were not joking. It took so long that I was genuinely wondering when the hostess would come into the car and give the on-board safety demonstration. Around fifteen to twenty minutes later we arrived at their humble abode, took the bike for a quick spin and paid the couple before setting out on our great adventure. It is my tradition to always shout “WE’RE GOING ON AN ADVENTUREEEE” every time we go on a long journey or pop to the supermarket or whatever, so that is exactly what we did before leaving on our Google-Maps-estimated five hour and seventeen minute journey. HOWEVER, while all of this seems to be a solid plan, it turns out that we had GROSSLY overlooked four major factors concerning the journey before taking off:
- The route that we would take
- The fact that we should bring food
- The sheer weight and size of the bakfiets itself
- The terrible winds in the North of Holland.
Day 1: 12:34pm.
We departed on our journey from the home of our sellers back towards the train station and had been cycling for approximately 30 seconds when I cycled ahead to cut in front of Jacob to allow a cyclist coming in the opposite direction to pass. As it happened I was not used to cycling in the company of an individual cycling a bakfiets and cut across him too soon, clipping the front of the wooden seating area and knocking Jacob off the road and into the ditch. After some swearing and shouting, we were adamant that this early mishap would not dampen the excitement of our journey and got ourselves all sorted and back on the road.
Another three minutes down the road and Jacob had a shocking confession to make: the bakfiets was extremely heavy to cycle. While I was whizzing ahead on my light yellow bike, Jacob was following behind me, using up valuable energy to push the bike, only 300m into our 105km journey doing about 10km an hour. We soon realised that this journey was not going to be as easy as we had thought and that the only people in the world who would complete this journey in five hours and seventeen minutes were Lance Armstrong on drugs or some of his fellow Tour de France cycling pals.
To our horror we faced another major disadvantage: we had no idea where in the world we were going. While we were used to Utrecht and its surrounding areas where everything was nicely signposted for cyclists, we may as well have been in the North Pole when we were in Schagen as every crossroad contained absolutely no signs whatsoever. While we had our not-so-trusty friend Google maps, Jacob’s battery was running low and my Irish phone had no data at all; things were not looking so good.
We were approximately twelve minutes into our journey when we realised that we were very very hungry. Unfortunately for us, it was a Sunday and in certain holy parts of Holland, everything shuts down on Sunday. There was not a McDonalds or Burger King in sight and I longed for the sweet taste of a McChicken sandwich as an obvious and appropriate fuel for our long journey. Our only choice was to keep on cycling with the hope that we would soon see the beautiful sight of a giant golden M or smell the sweet cooking of KFC southern fried chicken.
After suggesting to Jacob that we should switch bikes with the hope of taking him out of his bakfiets-induced bad mood, I took my seat on the coveted bike and soon realised what he had been talking about. Within a couple of meters it became apparent to me how much energy and effort it takes to cycle a bakfiets. While you would think that such an invention would be light an easy to push (seeing as all the Dutch yummy mummies do it with such ease in Utrecht) it is not an easy task, especially when the front is empty and prone to go in whatever direction it chooses. It wasn’t long before I was overcast with a grumpy and hungry bakfiets cloud and still there was not a broodje nor bitterballen in sight. After what seemed like an eternity, we managed to reach a nearby town with *sigh of relief* an open Albert Heijn. We pulled over the bikes and stocked up on the traditional cyclist’s diet of Auto Drop snoepjes, jam doughnuts, Doritos, Coke and pineapple slices, naturally. It was only as we sat outside that we noticed the angry, dark clouds forming in the sky and in fear of being caught in a tropical thunderstorm (as well as being eaten by the encroaching, randomly located flock of hungry seagulls surrounding our bakfiets) we hit the road once again.
It wasn’t long before the rain came down and before we once again found ourselves lost and without a much needed bathroom. While we tried to keep our spirits high, we found ourselves being sucked into the frustration of having cycled for approximately six hours straight and only managing to travel around 31km. After reaching an all time low and having to take an au natural wizzle along the side of the road feat bush curtain and dock leaf toilet paper, we decided that our best hope was to reach the nearest town and leave the bakfiets, hop on a train and return the next day to finish the rest of our journey. That is exactly what we did when we reached Purmerend and boarded a train back to Utrecht, nearly crying with tears of joy and hopes that tomorrow would yield a more productive day of travel…